If you had a childhood, you probably watched the animated movie Balto. The real-life story of a dog who brought vaccines to ill children in harsh weather conditions, Balto was a hero in real life and in fiction. You most likely didn’t know about the dog who led the sleigh team to get to Balto. That dog was Togo – a twelve-year-old good boy who ran the longest part of what was known as the Great Race of Mercy. Right away, the movie feels familiar and as I just mentioned, you probably will think to yourself ‘I know this story – this is Balto’. No, it’s Togo and you will be happy to learn about this dog throughout the movie.
Willem Dafoe portrays Leonhard Seppala, a Norwegian sled dog breeder. Seppala must face harsh weather conditions in order to transport diphtheria antitoxin serum in 1925. At the front of the pack of Siberian Huskies is Togo. Despite Togo being twelve years old and others were skeptical, Leonhard knows that this is the dog to help lead them on their dangerous mission. Leonhard did not always hold Togo in such high regards, as we see through flashbacks in the film. Togo was an adventurous little dog who frequently burrowed his way out of places and disrupted the rest of the team when Leonhard was attempting to train them. Leonhard, against his wife’s wishes; even tried to get rid of Togo, but Togo kept coming back to him.
‘Togo’ is just as much a story of the Great Race of Mercy, as it is about honoring the dog itself. The movie brings you right to the edge of fear with some incredible racing scenes; somewhere you don’t know if any of them are going to make it. Then we have endearing flashbacks of Togo as a puppy and him wiggling his way into Seppala’s heart.
This isn’t a role that you would probably picture Dafoe in, but I really enjoyed chemistry he had with Togo. Especially in the flashback scenes, where we see this slightly cantankerous man warming up to this special dog. Julianne Nicholson plays Leonhard’s wife in the film, Constance; with whom he has tangible chemistry with as well. It’s with Constance’s warm and sometimes stern encouragement that Leonhard begins to see the potential in Togo. Eventually, Leonhard and Togo get on the same page and he knows that it has to be Togo at the front when it’s time to begin his journey.
I believe ‘Togo’ did a good job of balancing the action scenes with the background scenes. The harsh weather conditions and the feeling of dread were palpable; you imagined it was you trying to get through the storm and you wondered how they even made it at all. ‘Togo’ is coming out at a time where certain diseases are coming to the surface due to people choosing not to vaccinate their children. ‘Togo’ reminds us of the lengths that people went through to make sure vaccines got to sick children and that our ancestors fought to combat these deadly illnesses. Make sure you check out ‘Togo’ when it premieres on Disney+. Come for the adorable dog Togo and stay for life-lesson.
A girl with too many fandoms to count.