It wasn’t reviewed all that well, but with Liam Neeson in it I just had to take a look. The first half hour was very, very good, with one of the best and most harrowing plane crashes I’ve ever seen. It’s a terrible one, into some remote region of Alaska, and most of the load of oil workers die on impact. A few more die later, and we are left with seven who have to figure out how to survive. Rescue seems unlikely, given the huge emptiness of the terrain, the howling wind, and the sub-freezing temperatures. As if that weren’t enough, they are being stalked by a truly supernatural band of wolves.
I almost wish they had left the wolves out of it. Surviving in that area is hard enough without them. There are really gripping scenes of crossing a huge chasm on an improvised rope, and being swept away by a raging river. As you expected, the men are picked off one by one … but only the first two are dead as the result of wolf attacks. There are so many other things that can kill you there, including simply dying of altitude sickness. Some people can’t handle it, and with the other stresses of moving through knee-deep crusty snow and not having much to eat, one man just dwindles away.
The problem, for me and a lot of other people, is that wolves just don’t behave that way. It’s possible to accept strange animal behavior for the sake of a story. Jaws is a good example. No great white ever behaved that way. But okay, what if it did? I accepted it, and was scared. But by the time they got to Jaws III (or was it IV?), with a shark actually following someone around the world, it was too much to accept.
Nothing the wolves do here is completely impossible, I guess, but you know that by the end the last man standing (Liam Neeson, of course, the alpha human) will have to face the alpha wolf, mano a wolfo. But then it surprised me … and I suspect angered a lot of movie-goers. I wasn’t angry, since I wasn’t looking forward to the battle. And I do understand that the wolves were, in large part, metaphorical.
This must have been a tough one to make. It was shot in British Columbia, not Alaska, but who cares? Forty below is the same on our Fahrenheit scale as it is on the Canadian Centigrade scale, and that’s what it got down to in some of the outdoor scenes. That’s killing weather, on anyone’s scale.