Fri, Sep 04, 2009 - Page 16 News List

FILM REVIEW: There and back again, in a shell

‘Turtle: The Incredible Journey’ follows the life of a loggerhead turtle from its birth in Florida and trek across the Atlantic to its return 25 years later

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER


The denizens of the deep, in all their mystery, often make for fascinating cinema. All the way from Jacques Cousteau to Finding Nemo (2003) by way of Jaws (1975) and National Geographic Channel documentaries, the ocean has provided an abundance of material for filmmakers. The ocean, we are told, is endlessly delightful, fascinating, terrifying and above all mysterious in its power.

Turtle: The Incredible Journey is the first cinematic venture by the Save Our Seas Foundation and is helmed by Nick Stringer, who has directed numerous nature programs for the likes of the National Geographic Channel. It is therefore no surprise that the film has something of a televisual quality, though some of the spectacular underwater cinematography would be diminished if only seen on the small screen.

The film takes a look at the life of a loggerhead turtle, from its birth on the beaches of Florida through its journey along the Gulf Stream, years of danger in the wilderness of the Sargasso Sea, and arrival at the breeding grounds of the Azores before returning to the place of its birth 25 years later to lay eggs and set the wheel of life turning anew.

The director takes this story and gives it a somewhat melodramatic treatment. As the publicity material states, the film has “all the elements of a great epic: suspense, adventure, despair and hope.” The opening scene, shot from a very low angle, in which the baby turtle fights its way out of its shell and clambers the few long and deadly meters out to sea, brings to mind Saving Private Ryan and the storming of the Normandy beaches. Thousands of baby turtles fall victim to crabs or are dive-bombed by cormorants, killed in their first minutes of life. The images are spectacular, the survival rate shockingly low, and Miranda Richardson works far too hard to give the visuals even greater oomph.


Turtle: The Incredible Journey


Nick Stringer


Miranda Richardson





If anything, Turtle: The Incredible Journey’s weakest point is this striving for an epic quality, with the voice-over sometimes adopting the breathless tones of the television commentator. One also wonders whether the film poster, with a loggerhead turtle gliding directly toward the camera, is referencing a very similar image used in promotions for Finding Nemo. This is clearly a film that is not missing anything in the book of publicity tricks to draw its audience. That said, the shoehorning of a storyline and the clear narration make this an excellent film for the whole family.

Despite the film’s faults, the unsentimental story told by the pictures and the facts dispensed by Richardson are fascinating, and one can only gasp in amazement at long tracking shots of giant schools of fish in a feeding frenzy, deadly fields of jellyfish, sharks and whales on their globetrotting odysseys and the strings of lowly Sargassum weed floating along the Gulf Stream, which plays such a crucial role in the lives of many marine creatures.

Above all else, Turtle: The Incredible Journey does one thing right. It preserves, and even deepens the sense of awe we feel at the mystery of life. While it doesn’t shy away from sentimentalizing the life of the loggerhead turtle, it also is perfectly up front about the cruel challenges turtles and other ocean creatures face on the road to adulthood, and hopefully makes us cherish these creatures and our shared environment a little bit more. Extensive information about the film can be found at

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