Not only is the Nile river the longest in the world, but it's also one of the most dangerous when you factor in the wildlife, gun-toting bandits, and the wild rapids, it's an unforgiving beast of nature. IMAX films and Image Entertainment puts viewers into a raft for a four month journey that starts in the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, down into Sudan where the White Nile comes in, and ends in Egypt. Along with Pasquale Scaturro, the expedition leader and a kayak specialist Gordon Brown are a team of novices to the world of expeditions including a journalist, a scientist, a photographer, and an archaeologist. Scaturro and Brown make the entire trip while the rest of the crew takes some of the journey on land.
This dynamic is definitely a factor at one point where the scientist scales down a cliff and has to overcome his fear of heights. It allows those of us who wouldn't remotely be caught doing any of this, to get a sense of apprehension in the experience and honesty in what's being caught on film. To break up the trip down the river, is a camel ride into a ghost town, keeping a lookout at night for crocs, and a glimpse into cultures that reside around the Nile. Scaturro and Brown eventually do make the entire 3,250 mile trek to the Mediterranean Sea and become the first people in history to go from the source of the Nile to sea.
At IMAX, the goal has always been to give people an experience, allowing them to do something they would otherwise not be able to do. Climb the Alps, drive on the Nascar circuit etc. Only in the last few years have they made a push to show mainstream films and utilize the 3D technology, and by doing so, afford themselves the opportunity to make educational films for all ages. Because of the film format and size, most of these films clock in at around 45 minutes to and hour, but the video quality is astounding and with big picture sound available and giant televisions, the IMAX size-experience cannot be reproduced, but it can still be enjoyed in the home theater.
So with that in mind, I caution you not to judge too harshly. There is still some amazing footage caught here, and there is a sense of danger whether it's being shot at or having a raft flip over into a river full of crocodiles. How some of the countries use the Nile is discussed along with the environmental fallout because of the use, and the grim future that lies ahead, but oh so briefly. Color me disappointed though because I was hoping to learn a little more about the Nile and its civilizations. It is called the "Mysteries" of the Nile, and there are some enlightening facts learned, but it really should have been called "Journey Down The Nile" or "Rafting Down the Nile." Too much is spent early on showing the assembly of the team for the expedition. At 45 minutes, the trip doesn't start rolling until ten minutes in and by that time, you're wondering how are they going to fit in four months of a journey into a half hour? So while not as complete a film as I'd like, Mysteries of the Nile IMAX is still worth a look, just to see part of this journey captured to hopefully tickle the brain into some personal exploration into some uncommon knowledge and of course, to flex the muscles of your home theater.
The film does succeed in getting the viewer to feel like they're in those rafts and living the Nile experience. Details are vividly clear as seen in the textures in the structures of the Sudan ghost town and the canyon ridges. The wide range of tones in Earth's land is reproduced well here. Contrast is excellent with deep blacks and shadows and the image maintains quality depth throughout. Two areas where one might have concern are when Pasquale and Gordon are caught in the storm at night, and the rushing rapids of the Nile and its big waterfall all show great detail without any artifacts or edge enhancements. A small level of grain is present, but it's perfectly acceptable. Like most IMAX features, this 1080p AVC encoded high-definition transfer is very impressive.
The Nile comes alive with the English DTS-HD Master Audio track. Also available are Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks. As discussed in the "Making of", the narration volume is turned down to give way to the music produced for the film, as it's one of the characters of the film and is present through all the channels. Unfortunately it's not natural to hear the audio that way while you're trying to get into the film and listen to what's being said. There might be some struggle to find that balance to hear the narration without being overpowered by the music, but that will vary from person to person. Rear channels are very active again with lots of music, crowds clapping in the religious ceremonies, and fast movement effects like the gushing water of the rapids or birds zipping by. Aside from the music and dialogue imbalance, there's not much else to complain about here.
You may learn a thing or two about the Nile, but I doubt you'll uncover any mysteries. As misleading as the title is, this journey down the Nile is a fast Cliff Notes version of what looks like an amazing journey. Though truncated, these IMAX films reproduce well in the home theater with a very active sound stage and visuals that will leave you breathless. The camera work and high definition transfer often put the viewer in a first-person journey down this magnificent river but due to its very brief coverage, I'd say it's worth a rental at best.