Beyond the Pole (2009)

2011 #91
David L. Williams | 87 mins | TV | 1.85:1 | UK / English | 15

Beyond the PoleAdapted from a cult Radio 4 series, Beyond the Pole is a British mockumentary about “the first carbon neutral, vegetarian and organic expedition ever to attempt the North Pole”, starring Stephen Mangan Off Green Wing and other recognisable faces.

In case it wasn’t clear, this is a comedy. Unfortunately it’s only mildly amusing rather than laugh-out-loud hilarious. Worse still, it’s occasionally a bit thumb-twiddly as the inevitable plot points inevitably happen. In fact, it goes a bit OTT with implausibility for my liking. The pair of polar ‘explorers’ are attempting this with no training at all? Their UK base/contact is a caravan in a field with some satellite dishes on top? The performances and shooting style are too grounded to sell this kind of thing to me. Most of the film is asking you to believe that this is, while clearly a comedy, still plausible, but some of these points don’t quite gel.

Even after that, it still goes a bit awry as the story heads into the third act. Events get too serious for the farcical comedy it started out as. I believe it’s possible to make that transition from comedy to meaningful, serious drama — often making the dramatic section all the more effective because it surprises you — but Beyond the Pole doesn’t manage it at all well.

On the bright side, it doesn’t go on about the green agenda too much, which I’d presumed would be half the point. While I’m all for informing people and reminding them Something Must Be Done, battering viewers round the head with it when they’re expecting to enjoy a nice comedy is perhaps not the best way to go about it.

Phone pole... see what I did there?It’s also impressively realised. Its apparent low budget led me to assume we’d, a) see very little of the actual trip, and b) what we did see would be all inside-a-tent and green-screened. But no, it was really shot on floating sea ice off the coast of Greenland, and it makes for a highly effective polar landscape. Good work, filmmakers.

Sadly, being impressed they managed to get some good locations and a recognisable cast (Mark Benton! Helen Baxendale! Alexander Skarsgård! (Random.) Lots of newsreaders from the BBC, Newsnight, Sky — clearly someone had favours to call in) does not make up for the lack of serious laughs in a comedy. Oh well.

2 out of 5

Beyond the Pole featured on my list of The Five Worst Films I Saw in 2011, which can be read in full here.

A pair of comedies — one with snow!

It’s Christmas Eve! Hurrah! All the best of the season to you, and that kind of palaver.

As I have no Christmassy films stacked up in my big pile of things I need to get round to reviewing, I’ve decided the nearest I can offer to the Christmas spirit is a pair of British comedies (comedies being kinda jolly, see), one of which has snow, which is always Christmassy. Except when it’s just at the North Pole. Like in this film. Oh shh, it’s the best I could do.

Without further witter, then, here are some reviews. Snow first, quality second — it is Christmas after all…

Unfortunately it’s only mildly amusing rather than laugh-out-loud hilarious… On the bright side, it doesn’t go on about the green agenda too much… While I’m all for informing people and reminding them Something Must Be Done, battering viewers round the head when they’re expecting to enjoy a nice comedy is perhaps not the best way.
Read more…


Though the film pokes fun (fairly good-naturedly) at sci-fi obsessives, the underlying story here is about a man overshadowed by his past. In this Rob Brydon gives a strong performance — I think he’s a better actor than he’s normally given credit for… The biggest twist, however, is that Steve Coogan plays a nice character. There’s no surprise sting in the tail there, he’s just nice throughout. It’s weird.
Read more…


Merry Christmas!