Liam Neeson and a group of oil riggers go down in a plan crash in the Alaskan wilderness and must battle the elements, themselves and a pack of wolves to survive. What sounds like such a ridiculously good and exciting premise, though, devolves into a lot of introspection and nihilistic observations on life and faith in a movie that was a lot preachier than it needed to be.
First off, I do NOT have any problem with developing the characters in a story so that they aren’t mere cardboard cutout redshirts. Drama is great. There are some great, thoughtful movies out there. But I got this movie to see Liam Neeson punch wolves in the face, not to listen to him tearfully recall his dead wife and question whether or not he can live without her.
That said, the action in this movie is good. The characters are strong. The setup takes a little long, but the premise is solid. Everything is believable. This isn’t a group of guys that become a family through their shared ordeal – they continue to hate each other right on through the experience, but come to accept that they better work together if they want to live. There are no great heroes – just guys doing what they can to not get killed. Liam Neeson is great despite some overly artsy writing and dialog. His “call out” to God is dramatic, well done and without giving anything away, it’s resolution is perfect – it could be the iconic scene of the film. People complain about the ending, but I liked the ambiguity of it: win or lose, is the struggle ever really over?
What should have been “Rambo” in Alaska turns out being a lot more “Old Man and the Sea”, but it works. The movie is a little bloated, definitely too smart for its own good and definitely indulgent for the writer and director, but it’s well acted, well paced for the most part and beautifully pulled together in terms of setting – the editing and cinematography are spot on and actually work with some of the quieter moments in the film. Overall, exciting enough for action junkies and thoughtful enough for artists.