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Film: Arthur The King     
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Nathalie Emmanuel, Simu Liu, Bear Grylls, Michael Landes, Paul Guilfoyle, Ali Suliman, Rob Collins
Director: Simon Cellan Jones
Rating: 3/5
Runtime: 107 min.

“Arthur the King” is based on the true story about a team participating in an adventure race – the most extreme conceived. Mark Wahlberg plays team leader Michael Light of The American team, that is making a last-ditch effort to score big,  racing through the jungles, mountains, and rivers of the Dominican Republic. Along the treacherous route he bonds with a stray dog he names Arthur. The true story had the involvement of a Swedish team in Ecuador, though.  

Michael is basically seeking redemption after the fallout of his last race leaves him as a laughing stock on Instagram. He is undoubtedly an adrenaline junkie who finds it difficult to settle into a regular job working for his former military-turned-realtor father. His love for his wife and daughter are unquestionable but his love for the sport is tearing him apart. He does not want his legacy to the sport be a viral image of his losing team literally stuck in the mud. 

Though no one wants to sponsor him after his last failure, Michael manages to cobble up a team with just half of the money he needs. Chick (Ali Suliman), the navigator, who has bad knee, Olivia (Nathalie Emmanuel), the expert free climber and daughter of an ailing former champion, and Leo (Simu Liu), the one who posted that viral mud photo, join him in their effort to regain respect and glory.

While all this is going on we see glimpses of the stray struggling to find food and sustenance. Then comes the 5-10 days of racing through the toughest, uncharted terrain on earth…and the stray is a competitive participant thanks to Michael’s one kind act of feeding him some meatballs at one of the overnight halts. 

While the race itself is one of the highlights of this film, it’s the evolving relationship between Michael (not a dog person) and the stray over the period of the race and what comes after, that makes for a moving experience. The abused street dog follows the team for hundreds of miles and at one point even saves them from running off a cliff. In Arthur, Michael finds himself a new member for his family. And along the way, Michael and his team are even willing to sacrifice pole position in order to take their new team member onward to the finish line. 

While it’s thrilling to watch teams of four traversing 435 miles through rugged terrain – running, trekking, climbing, kayaking and mountain biking, it’s really Arthur (Ukai) who makes his way into your heart. The title character steals your heart and transforms this sports drama into a love story between a canine and a human. Wahlberg is tough and tender and lends Michael sincerity and genuineness. Juliet Rylance does well as his supportive wife. 

Director Simon Cellan Jones and screenwriter Michael Brandt, adapt Mikael Lindnord’s book “Arthur: The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home,” well enough to score strong emotion from the audience. This film may seem manipulative and cheesy but there’s no doubting the power of it’s craft. Enough dramatic weightage is given to the big action set pieces. When the competitors dangle from a zipline and have to find a way across without jeopardizing their lives, it calls for high tension.  Hand-held shots add immediacy and intimacy to moments of extreme exhaustion and angst. This film has an irresistible allure and will be especially endearing to young children who might clamour for a dog as a pet after watching this film. 



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