Togo (2019) – Review

I was talking to a veterinarian friend of mine about books, and like it always does, the conversation turned to dogs and by the time afternoon turned to evening, I was looking to set my weekday evening date with Togo.

The date was, to quote Willem Defoe, memorable.
It entertains, it teaches, it takes us to edges of things.
It also tell us that the best way to coax a dog to rage against a storm is to quote Shakespeare. How?

As the movie blitzes between the ice-storm hells of Norton Sound, Alaska to the warm cabins of pencil pushers, the movie tell us what makes us human – Henry is tough, and brave, and he won’t sit in front of a warm fire when he knows children are dying. The movie also tell us why Shakespeare is enduringly popular and so eminently quotable.

He can even be quoted to dogs, as Willem Defoe does, as he is gaily sledding against a snowstorm on an shattering ice-floe – Are we to fear ice now? He, which hath no stomach in this fight, let him depart.

I have learnt that even dogs are moved by speeches, particularly, by ones full of haths and thees.

Every scene takes a grain of truth and turns it into an surreally celluloid experience that teeters on the edge of disbelief while never quite stepping over to the other side. There are cinematic liberties the size of Olympus Mons. The music is operatic, and the drama, whether it is a soppy dog-lover’s tale or an all-out battle against a howling, screaming, blitzkrieg-ing Mother Nature, is always at a soprano just edging past the tenth octave.

The excitement is not palpable. It is smothering.

The movie teaches you that in the icy-fastnesses or in the warm tropics, and over the massive shifts of time politicians in every dimension are witless idiots, It also teaches you that you can hold your breath for over one hundred minutes, while crying emotionally even when you are biting your nails. If you are medically inclined and think it is not possible, I implore you, beseech you, to watch this movie. If you are a dog lover, you need no proof – the countless other dog tales would have already done it to you, albeit at a lower magnitude.

The theatrics all around are at 25. Even the dogs seemed to have caught on the vibe and jumped into the melodramatic tempest with cardiac-arresting delight.

And in the end, the film also tells us, what every dog lover knows. It tells us, rather redundantly, how long a great dog stays with us. The answer is exact to the last minute and second.

If you do not know the answer, watch Togo. If you know the answer, still watch Togo.

This is cinematic-excess and suspension-of-disbelief done to perfection.


Come, my pups!
Are we to fear ice now? He, which hath no stomach in this fight, let him depart.
His passport shall be made, we would not die in that dog’s company!
Old dogs forget, but he who would remember with advantages what feats he did that day.
Then shall our names, familiar in his mouth as household words — Seppala, the driver.
Sally, Molly, and Reverend Togo, great Togo in lead!

Leonhard Seppala (Willem Defoe)Togo

To sleep! to sleep! The long bright day is done,
And darkness rises from the fallen sun.
To sleep! to sleep!
Whate’er thy joys, they vanish with the day;
Whate’er thy griefs, in sleep they fade away.
To sleep! to sleep!
Sleep, mournful heart, and let the past be past!
Sleep, happy soul! all life will sleep at last.
To sleep! to sleep!

Alfred Tennyson The Foresters Act I, Scene III – The Outlawry


Togo (2019) is available on Disney+/Hotstar

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