The Disney studios seem to have a soft spot for rugged frontier tales of tough Arctic men and their canine companions. Togo (streaming on Disney Plus) adds the perk of being based on a true story and starring Willem Dafoe.
In the winter of 1925 a deadly outbreak of diphtheria threatened the lives of the residents of Nome, a remote port in Alaska. An antitoxin was found, but the serum could only reach a rail station located 674 miles away. With a deadly blizzard approaching, the only way to deliver the serum in time was to use twenty teams of sled dogs that would relay each other.
The screenplay tells the story of veteran musher Leonhard Seppala and his lead dog, a 12-year-old Siberian Husky named Togo (Tso'go means puppy in the Sami language). The epic run became known as the “Great Race of Mercy”, and the serum was delivered to Nome in just under 6 days, saving the lives of many children.
The dog that completed the last part of the run, Balto, got the fame and the glory, but Togo was reportedly the real hero, running 264 miles of the route under the guidance of his handler while the other teams ran on average thirty one miles.
Togo is also the story of an aging "underdog", an undisciplined and stubborn Husky who, since he was a pup, didn't seem that he could ever make it as a sled dog.
The charismatic Willem Dafoe forges a believable bond with the well-trained dogs, and the movie offers some truly thrilling dog sled scenes, honoring the life of people like Seppala, who entered into the unknown and trusted the skills of their dogs to get them to destination. The ending scene of a terrifying run across cracking ice is visceral and scary.
Togo is one of my favorite dog movies, and a must-watch for any dog lover.
You can view the movie trailer on YouTube.