Have you had enough of Alaska yet? Here are a few Alaska based films that you might want to see! Sound off in the comments if you have seen any of these travel adventure movies.
Do you have something to live for? A question this action-adventure movie poses to its audience. The characters in the film do not utilize this phrase for quiet contemplation but rather for motivation and survival in unexpected circumstances.
The pair of male leads have excellent chemistry. Anthony Hopkins is convincing as the smartest man in the room who seems to “know everything” even if he admits his knowledge is strictly theoretical. Alec Baldwin is more playful than his modern persona yet still displays that sarcastic wit he is known for.
Those of us who remember anything from our English classes remember that there are only a few kinds of conflict in stories. This tale is a gripping example of all three. Man vs. Nature pits the small band of men against a perilous and isolated wilderness which is simultaneously beautiful and unforgiving. Man vs. Man pits the characters against each other as they all try to maintain pride, ego and hope in a desperate situation with a layer of betrayal under the surface. Man vs. Himself is always a factor in survival situations, as men try to overcome the despair that creeps in when hope hangs by a thread.
This battle between hope and despair is highlighted when Hopkins states that “most men who are lost die of shame.” They spend too much time wondering about how they got into the situation rather than focusing on what is truly important, how to get out of it.
The thought provoking and poetic nature of dialogue is unusual for this genre of film, yet is a selling feature. For an adventure film, incorporating so many genuine conversations can be difficult, but the script is masterfully crafted in this case. The interaction between characters is clever throughout and ranges from comedic breaks of sarcasm to dramatic scenes of fear and even heartbreak. There is a subtlety to the deliveries also, as Hopkins and Baldwin can say a lot with their eyes as well as their choice of tone and words.
A similar survival theme which we saw in the previous review is also present in The Grey. However, the tone of this one is much less adventurous and hopeful but has rather a bleak and somber feel. We begin by meeting a character, portrayed by the engrossing Liam Neeson, who resides in a place of outcasts, who he describes as those not fit for civilized society. He is a man who has slipped into the darker emotions; loss has left him with nothing but heartache and despair. He seems to have nothing worth living for. Life has no value to him.
This all changes when he is one of the few survivors of a plane crash. He is now surrounded by nothing but challenges; the frigid natural environment, wild predators and resistance from his companions. The events precipitated by the crash are best viewed as allegorical in this film. It does not matter whether the specifics of the crash or the behaviour of the wolves is realistic. What matters is Neeson’s response to the situation. This is a man who not long ago felt that life was a burden not worth carrying. Now he clings to the most animalistic of survival instincts. All living beings have a survival instinct, and this film shows us that some people require a drastic wake up call to show us the value life offers us.
The philosophical ideas raised here are quite profound but do require some reflection. Is it human nature to be unappreciative of what we have until it is forcefully taken from us? When faced with peril, do we lose the human constructs of decency or civility to rely on baser instincts? How much is one willing to fight for survival before despair overwhelms? None of these are easy questions to answer, but the film tries to explore them nonetheless. As Plato’s allegory of the cave is a representation of a quest for knowledge, so too can this be viewed as a representation of a quest for life or perhaps even how we choose to perish. It seems no less wrong to accept the inevitable and lay down in peace than it does to remain stubborn and refuse to go quietly into the dark night.
The film is bookended by a poem Neeson reads at the beginning and end of his journey. Hearing the words spoken out loud has a haunting effect. The words grip us and force us to confront the ideas of the film. At the end, you will find yourself not only wondering about the characters of the film but also about the character of yourself.
This film is an inkblot test for the soul. The lessons you take out of it and the response you have to the main character’s attitude and predicament will greatly depend on your life view. The philosophical questions raised are not easily unraveled or glibly attainable. You must commit to the journey if you are going to participate at all.
The biographical nature of this story adds to its realism. At surface glance, one could view this as just another coming of age tale about a lost soul on a quest of self-discovery. In this case we are given a much deeper glimpse into the mind of the man. How much we relate to his societal views and moral values is the driving force of our viewing experience.
This adolescent reads a particular kind of book, sees culture in a particular kind of way, and defines happiness by a creed that makes sense to him. He is young, but is he onto something? He is selfish, but is there truth in his words? Looking at his actions without context, it is easy to be judgmental of his decisions. This film tries to make us understand why he believed what he did was worthwhile.
When someone decides to truly cast off all the restrictions and controls of the social world around them, he decides to live only for himself and disregard any obligation he might have to any other person. This is innately selfish, but perhaps the only way to be completely free. The main character here is influenced by the works of Henry David Thoreau and Jack London. He takes these words and messages and puts them into action. He wants to live his life a certain way, regardless of outside perceptions.
When the inevitable climax is reached, I wonder if he asked himself “was it worth it?” There is an epiphanic moment when he discovers a refined definition of happiness, but there is also an underlying sense of solace and peace to the conclusion. This story might not have been told otherwise.
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