The Red Tent is one of those great movies that masterfully combines action and drama with historic accuracy, keeping you both strapped to the seat to watch the story unfold and giving you something to think about afterwards. Contrary to what it might seem at first, it is not a light sunday afternoon movie and the entire setup – even if it was done almost 45 years old – is a fine example of cinematography and camera work. Adding to that some great acting, the names of two Oscar award winners – Sean Connery and Peter Finch as well as the … beauty contest winner Claudia Cardinale, this is a recipe for a must-see movie.
The Red Tent tells the story of General Umberto Nobile and his 1928 expedition aboard the airship Italia, looking to be the first man to reach the North Pole by air. It begins with an old, haunted and tormented Nobile, 40 years after the event, recalling the ghosts of those who participated, to a trial in wich his guilt is to be decided. Slowly, we get into the story, we travel with the expeditionary crew that reaches the North Pole, but due to the weather decide to circle around and return without touching ground. On the return path their airship crash amid the frozen ocean and the survivors establish a tent painted in red – “A red tent. A mark for the aircraft that will never come.”
Not wanting to spoil the storyline more than I have to, a ham radio operator plays a role in the rescue operations – and I dare you not have your heart beat faster when he does. The famous explorer Roald Amundsen gets involved as well and Sean Connery portrays his meteoric appeareance – although he is ever-present in the discussions between the other characters.
If you are not familiar with the stories about the airship Italia and Amundsen, please don’t read all those Wikipedia pages I’ve linked to earlier and watch the movie first, it is really worth it.