With the exception of "Schindler's List", which is probably on my top 10 movies ever list, I've never been a huge fan of Liam Neeson. In trying to find a reason for this attitude (he IS a very good actor) I figured it all started with that sex movie "Kinsey". Ugh, TMI. He hasn't made the best decisions when it comes to some of the roles he accepts.
But the kids had a long weekend, and I agreed to take mine plus two others to the movies. My daughter and her friend wanted to see "The Vow" (absolutely no interest on my part) and the boys wanted to see wolves eat guys. It was rated R, but I figured it was mostly due to wolves eating guys. I was mostly right, but not completely.
Ottway (Neeson) is a seriously disturbed man who pines over his lost wife. We only know they are no longer together, and that Ottway writes letters to her in shaking handwriting. He works as a wolf sniper for an oil-drilling organization in the netherlands of Alaska, and his mentality wavers between surviving and wanting to die.
On a presumably short flight to somewhere, a plane full of oil workers (including Ottway) goes down in the wilderness, killing all but seven or eight of the men . But surviving the crash is only the beginning of the adventure. Not only are they stranded in an arctic climate without food or water, they are also smack in the middle of hunting territory for a pack of aggressive wolves the size of bears. In other words, if one of these guys lags behind the group, or turns to take a whizz, he might likely get picked off.
When I saw the preview for this one, I wrote it off as "just another action flick". I get so darned tired of them guys. Predictable waste of a couple hours usually, with a screenplay I could probably piecemeal together myself. I was pleasantly surprised that this movie shed that skin. It is high octane, high adrenaline, tie-your-stomach-in-knots action, for sure. But there were some things that set it apart.
The characters are three-dimensional, for one thing. Ottway has a lot going on inside his head. He had a troubled childhood, and deeply misses his wife, facts which are shown to us in flashbacks. His fellow crash survivors all have their own histories and stories as well, breaking a few stereotypes, and giving us more than the usual 2 minute character development.
The outcome is completely unpredictable. I walked in with a cocky attitude, figuring I knew how it was going to end, but I was dead wrong. And speaking of the end, a little tip: WAIT TO THE VERY END OF THE CREDITS. There is more, and you will want to see it. Very tricky.
There were some other "highlights" (if that is what you want to call them). For those of you with a healthy fear of heights (moi), there is a scene when the guys are attempting to get across a deep gorge by hanging from a homemade rope. I had to deep-breathe through that one. And the plane crash scene is particularly harrowing - made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
Let's quickly discuss the R rating, for any of you thinking about bringing boys that like their movies drowning in testosterone. Of course there is gore - both human and canine. We expect that. No sex. You do need to know that there is PERVASIVE language. I guess once you've heard the f-bomb, oh, let's say 30 times, it all kind of rolls off. But really, was it necessary to say it 3,289 times?
Bottom line, this flick is better than one would expect, with your yearly dose of adrenaline rush. Recommended.