Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes is the world's greatest explorer of our day and age. He is proof that you can dream of a crazy idea and then actually achieve it, having crossed the poles, scaled Everest, and other stunning feats. Filmmaker Matthew Dyas peer behind those feats and tries to determine what drives a man to do this, what he has lost in the process and how he views his life now in his late stage.
The highlights of Fiennes' life are riveting and almost unbelievable. He left the SAS at a young age after blowing up the set of Doctor Doolittle and from there seemed to move to a series of impressive feats. He was once even considered for the role of James Bond. An explorer at heart, Fiennes is very willing to talk about his life here. He doesn't skimp on details as we learn about how he lost the tips of four fingers. Using first-hand accounts, archival footage, and some creative sound design, Dyas is able to take us on these wild expeditions.
There is a nagging sense throughout Explorer that Fiennes is only somewhat aware of his privilege to achieve these feats. He comes from enough money to be able to live this kind of lifestyle. Dyas never really engages with this aspect and instead seems happier to just let Fiennes relay his tales of glory.
Around these tales, a more affecting element of his life starts to come into play. His 48-year relationship with his sweetheart Ginny is very moving. They were an incredible team until she died of cancer. It speaks to the best theme of the film which deals with aging. Fiennes has to come to terms with not only the loss of Ginny but also the effects of aging. It is moving to hear him talk about the limitations of his body when he still has so much he wants to do.
Dyas' filmmaking occasionally lacks clarity. It can be difficult to track all of the voices that come in and out of the film during various parts of his life. Dyas also seems content to let Fiennes recount his glory days without probing too much about the why behind them. This doesn't detract from the power of hearing about a man who constantly pushed himself. Explorer is best when it vividly recounts these wild expeditions Fiennes made. It is only as the film begins to move into its later half that I wished it had more insight into the central figure. In the end, I wasn't left with more than just general admiration for a man so willing to risk his life to explore. That is enough to recommend the film but not enough for me to remember it past the credits.