‘180 Degrees’ an eyeful for outdoorsy types

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, May 19, 2010 7:06pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Viewers will find many reasons to enjoy the documentary “180 Degrees South”: Mountain climbers, nautical types and environmentalists will all have something to get excited about.

But the movie’s true appeal lies not in a specific cause or hobby, but in something more basic its feeling of freedom. Ever since “The Endless Summer,” a certain kind of documentary has extolled the virtues of dropping out and hanging loose, and although “180 Degrees South” has some social-issue motives, it’s also a hymn to wanderlust.

The central wanderer is a guy named Jeff Johnson, who narrates the film in amiable surfer-dude fashion. Inspired by a six-month journey undertaken (and filmed) in 1968 by two environmentalist-businessmen, Johnson embarks on a trip with the same destination: the southernmost reaches of South America, and a tricky mountain called Corcovado.

The two businessmen are North Face founder Doug Tompkins and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard.

When Johnson finally gets to Chile, he will meet and interview these two men, who remain adventurous types (Chouinard, who climbed the mountain in ‘68, decides to tag along for another go, and Tompkins is busy overseeing a giant project to preserve millions of acres of wilderness in Patagonia).

But first, Johnson will have to get to Patagonia — and you know what they say about the journey being more important than the destination.

Hitching a ride as crew aboard a sailboat, Johnson and his boatmates break a mast, which forces a weekslong detour to Easter Island, the nearest landfall. This turns out to be a great break for the movie, which gorges on the amazing scenery (and notes the environmental disaster previously played out by the natives of Easter Island, aka Rapa Nui).

Johnson surfs the waves and meets a woman who signs on for the rest of the trip. Patching the boat, the travelers head for Chile, and the film shifts into mountaineering mode as Corcovado beckons.

There aren’t a great many profundities along the way, although the movie has its heart in the right place. And the ecology lessons will likely fall on already-converted ears, given the probable audience for the picture.

But that doesn’t matter too much, because for 90 minutes you get to hitchhike on a footloose ride, over the waves and up the side of a mountain, but without the seasickness and the altitude issues. That makes this movie a pleasant piece of outdoorsy wish fulfillment.

“180 Degrees South”

An outdoorsy wanderer travels to Patagonia via sea and land, the better to meet up with the environmentally minded businessmen Yvan Chouinard and Doug Tompkins and climb a forbidding mountain peak. With its hang-loose attitude and great scenery, the movie’s a pleasant piece of wish fulfillment.

Rated: Not rated; probably PG-13 for language

Showing: Varsity

Talk to us

More in Life

Steve Smith gift ideas for gardeners
Ten gift ideas for gardeners

From puzzles to pruners, how to pick the perfect present for the green thumbs on your list.

Jeff Barnett, owner of Salish Sea-Boathouse during the soft opening in Edmonds on November 24, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Salish Sea sets sail at second location in Edmonds

In honor of the nearby waterfront, The Boathouse has a decidedly nautical feel — and it’s more of a taproom and brewhouse than its sibling brewpub up the street.

Seven gift ideas for weathering the holiday season

Smart thermostats and portable power will be thoughtful presents — especially when energy bills and power outages hit.

Photo Caption: Francois-Xavier Lalanne often used animal motifs in his modern, minimalist sculptures. His porcelain eggcup with a chicken's head, wings and tail sold for $2,080 at Palm Beach Modern Auctions.

(c) 2021 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.
‘Pocillovy’ is the obscure hobby of collecting eggcups

It stems from Victorian times, when nearly every type of food had its own specialized dish and utensils.

Orangebark Stewartia, Stewartia monadelpha,
Great Plant Pick: Orangebark Stewartia

This tree’s stunning bark is shown to perfection when it’s planted with a backdrop of evergreens.

Clockwise from top left: Trinity Yun, Ryan Chung, Carson Chadd and John Meneses.
Orchestra returns with four outstanding young musicians

Pacifica Chamber Orchestra’s first in-person concert since before the pandemic will feature winners of the 2020 Snohomish County Music Teachers Association Competition.

Edmonds’ Gothard Sisters will perform their annual Celtic Christmas Concert at 7:30 tonight at Edmonds Center for the Arts.
Events calendar for Snohomish County

Edmonds’ Gothard Sisters will perform their annual Christmas concert on Dec. 2.

Daphne Patakia, left, and Virginie Efira in "Benedetta." (Courtesy of IFC Films/TNS)
‘Benedetta’ an unruly, sexually frank tale of Renaissance nun

Paul Verhoeven’s film has drawn protests from Catholics, which means he’s definitely doing something right.

George MacKay in "Wolf." MUST CREDIT: Focus Features
‘Wolf,’ a film about identity issues, is an unintentional howler

This misguided movie goes off the rails immediately and stays there throughout its running time.

Most Read