Produced by award winning film maker John Downer and narrated by Sir David Attenborough, 'Lion Spy - In the Den' uses the state of the art bouldercam and other pioneering techniques to transport us right to the heart of a pride of lions. When a lion charges, the viewers charge with it, when it rests, we lie alongside. This ground breaking production elevates the genre of natural history film making by pulling the viewer into the heart of the experience.Written by
Saw the 'Wildlife' specials as a big fan of the national treasure that is David Attenborough. As much as he may dislike the term it is a perfect way to sum him up, with his best works being documentary masterpieces and masterpieces in general.
As of now, fourteen episodes for 'Wildlife Specials' here are listed. There are actually twenty two, the others listed as one-offs. Eighteen of these up to 2008 were narrated/presented by Attenborough, the others ('Polar Bear: Spy on the Ice', 'Penguins: Spy in the Huddle', 'Swarm: Nature's Incredible Invasion', and 'Dolphins: Spy in the Pod')up to 2014 by David Tennant. All are must sees, have a preference for Attenborough's work here (being more familiar with his work and being a big fan of it) but Tennant's contributions are very well done too.
As has been indicated, 'Wildlife Specials' is highly recommended for nature lovers, documentary lovers and those who love Attenborough, also a good way of being introduced to Tennant's narrative work. It is very diverse/varied, looks great and shows a great deal of technological advancement in the camera work. This is apparent in "Lions: Spy in the Den" once again, this time dealing with lions, their physical and psychological qualities and how they adapt and survive in their varied habitats.
First and foremost, "Lions: Spy in the Den" looks amazing. It is gorgeously filmed, done in a completely fluid and natural, sometimes intimate (a great way of connecting even more with the leopards), way and never looking static. In fact much of it is remarkably cinematic and intimate, with terrific and innovative use of "bouldercam", a new technique to me and it was both clever and striking. The editing is always succinct and smooth and the scenery of all the continents is pure magic.
The music score fits very well, never overly grandiose while never being inappropriate with some lovely and authentic local music.
"Lions: Spy in the Den" fascinates, teaches, moves, entertains and transfixes. In terms of the facts there was a very good mix of the known ones and the unknown, some facts being familiar to us while also dealing with the subject with tact. Their intelligence comes out on screen crystal clear and how they live and their cultural aspects are handled in a way that does illuminate.
Narration by Attenborough helps significantly. He clearly knows his stuff and knows what to say and how to say it. He delivers it with his usual richness, soft-spoken enthusiasm and sincerity, never talking down to the viewer and keeping them riveted and wanting to know more.
It's not just visually beautiful and informative. The various lions featured are great to look at and more complex than they seem, with a mix of playfulness and ruthlessness. "Lions: Spy in the Den" also displays a wide range of emotions and found myself really caring for everything that was shown to us on screen. The conflict has genuine tension and suspense, seeing how the lions in various life stages adapt and survive, there is some charm seeing how they mate, and a lot of emotionally powerful moments portraying their ferocity in scenes that depict them fighting and hunting. Found myself really caring for what we're told.
"Lions: Spy in the Den" doesn't feel like an episodic stringing of scenes, but instead like the best nature documentaries it feels like its own story and journey, with real, complex emotions and conflicts.
Overall, can't recommend this highly enough. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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