Disney+ 'Togo' Review: Heartwarming winter tale of a man and his dog with captivating visuals
The untold true story of the man and the dog that took the longest part of the 1925 serum run to Nome
In 1925, the children of Nome, Alaska, were dying of diphtheria. The only cure was over 600 miles away, and with a storm brewing, there was no way to fly the medicine over.
A relay of dog sled teams was set up to cover the distance, and though Balto led the final team and got the fame, statue and animated Disney movie, the lion's share of the 1925 serum run was done by Leonhard Seppala and his lead dog, Togo.
With 'Togo', starring Willem Dafoe and Julianne Nicholson, Disney+ finally gives Togo the credit he's long deserved.
Togo's story is of two parts, both worth a movie in their own right, but told side by side as the serum run is interspersed with Togo's journey of the rebellious pup to a proud sled dog.
Leonhard Seppala (Dafoe) runs a kennel for sled dogs, and when one of his pups takes ill at a young age, he writes him off for dead. However, at his wife's insistence, Togo is nursed to health and quickly becomes the most unruly pet Seppala has ever seen.
Togo can't be caged, given away, or even locked up. He's a dog who will not rest until he’s allowed to join Seppala’s dog sled team, and as we see, 12 years later in 1925, Togo won both his position and Seppala’s undying loyalty.
Back in the present, the movie does its best to set up the stakes, but the movie’s just too happy, with too sweet a premise, for the stakes to feel like they matter at first. As things grow increasingly worse, however, the tension ramps up, until your heart is in your mouth worrying about the safety of the dogs despite knowing it’s a Disney movie with a happy ending all but assured.
The disasters themselves are beautifully shot. The scenery, and the brilliant orchestral soundtrack built up the wonderful wintry world of Alaska. The movie creates a sense of majesty for the storm, snow, and icy waters. Deathly as it may be, the scenery is breathtaking. In the movie’s quieter moments, the music and scenery combine to create a dreamy sense of wonder that’s perfect Christmas movie far.
All characters in the movie embody that Christmas Spirit. The 1925 serum run is a tale of people all coming together with humility, determination, and bravery. Dafoe sets the tone of the movie, portraying a quiet determination and humble work ethic. Seppala’s love for Togo is the only thing in the movie that sees his emotions get the better of him, which says a lot about both the man and the relationship with his dog. The flashbacks that explore his relationship with his wife, Constance (Julianne Nicholson) show a very comfortable relationship between two people living an idyllic rustic life.
‘Togo’ is a movie you don’t want to end. It’s an all ages delight, and an inspiring tale with enormous heart at its center. The visual spectacle, stirring soundtrack bring in just the right sense of awe that keep manage to make a movie partially set in a winter storm to be more than just a mass of fleck white on a screen. It captures everything that made ‘Balto’ work and takes it to a new level, finally giving credit to one of the most heroic animals of history.