Ever since I began subscribing to Disney+, I kept noticing a movie that looked intriguing, a movie called Togo. All I knew about it was that William Defoe co-stars with a dog, and there was going to be a lot of snow. With theaters closed, I turned to streaming services to curb my appetite for new movies, and so, I clicked on Togo, finally satisfying my curiosity about it.
The movie is based on the true story of the Great Race of Mercy in 1925. In Alaska that year, an epidemic swept across the town of Nome, and the antitoxin was...674 miles. Without the aid of planes or snowmobiles, the only way to get the medicine there was via sled dog teams. You may have heard of a dog named Balto. This was the event that made him famous. It was his team that made the final run and got the medicine to the town, but Togo’s team travelled the farthest, 260 miles to be exact. Knowing the true story already, I know how this story would end. The medicine would be delivered, and lives would be saved. What I wasn’t expecting was how much hope it gave me, especially during these times with a worldwide pandemic going on. The world awaits a cure as many people lie sick, overwhelming the hospitals, much like the town of Nome. Seeing the bravery and perseverance of the mushers as they traveled hundreds of miles across snowy fields and forests really moved me, and now knowing what exactly Togo and his team had to endure in order to deliver the medicine left me speechless. I wondered if Disney had exaggerated during a climactic scene, but after doing some research, I was amazed to find out that they didn’t exaggerate. That moment near the end of the film (that I won’t spoil) actually did happen. Togo really did do what the movie showed. That team of dogs did what seemed to me to be impossible, yet they did it. And I’m sure we’ll see something amazing like that happen soon with our pandemic.
As for the rest of the film, it plays out like a feel-good dog movie. William Dafoe plays Leonhard Seppala, a supportive husband and sometimes moody musher, especially when his dogs misbehave. Togo is one such dog. We see Togo’s journey from uncontrollable pup to the dog Leonhard relies on most. As a dog lover, the movie throws me a bone by reminding me of my days of raising my dog, seeing him grow up from infancy to his old, gray days, and it also doesn’t have one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to modern Hollywood: CGI dogs. I absolutely hate CGI dogs; they get under my skin and make me cringe every time I see it. Truthfully, there are CGI dogs in this movie, but they are used very rarely and for stunts that would be too dangerous for real dogs to do. So I’m happy. And because the dogs are living and breathing, it helps sell the emotional weight of the story. William can react accordingly to the dogs, and he certainly sells that he has a bond with the animals through his interactions with them. As heartwarming as a man with his dogs can be, the set-up for the plot can feel like it goes on for hours. At one point, I looked at the clock and was surprised it hadn’t been two hours. This movie has some fluff, and it will take some patience to get to the more exciting moments. However, I certainly think it's worth watching due to how relevant it is now.
The cinematography has many moments of beauty. If you’re going to make a movie that takes place in the wilderness of Alaska, you might as well get some incredible shots to show off the gorgeous scenery. With so many movies that rely on green screens and CGI landscapes, it’s refreshing to see an old-school approach to making a big budget movie, utilizing the skills and care of the crew as they film around the environment and the dogs. It’s a beautifully made film, both in its storytelling and in its cinematography.
I highly recommend watching this movie as soon as you can. The hope that it gave me was an incredible feeling and helped in making me a little more positive as we all try to get through this pandemic. Like dogs, this movie has a special place in my heart, and I will love it every time I see it.
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