"The equivalent of a mission to the moon."
Lewis and Clark, commissioned by Thomas Jefferson
in 1804 to map and explore the great Northwest, spent
2.5 years hiking, climbing, boating from St. Louis to
what is now Astoria, Oregon. This documentary follows
the duo (played by two able actors) along with their
crew through streams, rivers, prairies,
Jefferson's actual instructions: "The object of
your mission is to explore the Missouri river, &
such principal stream of it, as, by it's course and
communication with the waters of the Pacific ocean,
whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado or any other
river may offer the most direct & practicable
water communication across this continent for the
purpose of commerce."
This straight-on documentary hosts no gimmicks.
Though on occasion, a storm may have been manmade, or
stunt man have slipped down a cliff; most of the
images capture the adventurous restepping into the
wide open, gloriously beautiful and oft times
treacherous American Northwest.
Jeff Bridges narrates over seldom flashy, but
consistently solid images of the undertaking: pulling
boats through streams, sleeping in the snow,
confronting and negotiating with Indians.
Quite a few "IMAXy" aerial shots are included.
They're enjoyable, but I wanted each cut to hold
longer (especially once over the peak). This would
have provided even more contrast to the picture's
quicker than normal-doc pace. Some memorable surface
shots include a countryside full of buffalo (would
have loved to see the Indians hunting them), a
canoe-mounted-camera white-water rafting sequence, a
bear attack shot from the P.O.V. of bear, a barking
The script is always interesting, always
entertaining, politically sensitive (without going
over the top).
We see the group picking berries, but never
hunting and/or trapping. It's a hankering omission to
a story of exploration and survival. In contrast,
special attention is paid to an Indian woman and her
infant child who joined the men for a substantial
portion of the trip, contributing greatly to the
mission as did other Indian tribes.
On a lighter note, one segment jerked this
audience into a group chuckle. As the team prepared
to canoe through some rocky rapids, "nearby tribes
gathered to watch the white man drown."
My screening was based on an answer print, which
had a few transition kinks to work out. We were told
there may be some other changes including, perhaps,
the ending music. I do hope that change doesn't take
place ... I enjoyed that Native American sounding
piece. Most likely I enjoyed the rest of the music,
but as a good production will do, I was pulled in and
not conscious of it.