I think there are two keys of interpreting this movie:
– An action movie.
– A movie talking about something else than just the action.
In my opinion, a lot of commentators and viewers of the movie focus on this part.
a. On the good side, in the movie:
– The visual effects are fine, the wolves look nice, the accident is depicted with nice effects.
– Sound is good (helped me enter the world).
– The main character, Ottway (Liam NEESON), sends you emotions. You see him most of the time, and Liam NEESON does a good job with the character.
– There are some pauses for contemplative moments, it makes you think.
– Is not at all a complicated movie. Even the spiritual part is quite easy to comprehend.
b. On the poor side, the movie:
– Tends to be unrealistic. The storyline (the accident, the way in which wolves are everywhere), the characters (wolves’ behavior), the scenery (not too cold). This is totally different from a documentary.
– Has a quite poor & simple script, on an action-side comparing. Accident – people die – wolves live. Not too much thinking.
– Doesn’t care for secondary roles. Yes, Ottway develops well. But there are other characters in the movie, also. At some time, you don’t really care they die.
– The story is sad. Even if the ending is uncertain (you have to see it after the credits), the movie is rather sad.
– Also, it’s a violent movie. Sometimes, more about fear-inducing moments, rather than by shocking you with visually displeasing images.
OK, this is what you get by looking at the script, actors, wolves, scenery. From this, you get a feeling that the movie is about 5 out of 10, not a very poor movie, but also not a good one.
Still, some commentators do say some things about the spiritual part, and I will focus on this.
In my opinion, the movie is actually not a movie about survival, nature vs. man, how to fight wolves. Yes, these are themes in the movie, but the movie is not about this. In my opinion, the movie has this message:
– You can live a life based on survival instincts. Wolves do this, in the movie.
– You can live for other things than just for living as much as possible. There are other things worth living for. This is what makes the humans humans in the movie.
Let’s talk about the wolves:
– Generally, in nature things tend to be simple: “eat, live, procreate, sleep, and do this until you die”. This is the basic model.
– The wolves tend to be a bit higher than this, they don’t attack to feed themselves, they act to protect themselves. While this is a bit higher than the basic need, it’s still a survival action (“I attack you, so that you don’t attack me, so that I live”).
So, wolves act as animals wishing to survive.
Now, let’s focus on the people:
– They don’t want to hear a scientific, demonstrated truth on how to survive a plane crash, they care about the feelings more than logic.
– It’s totally immoral to steal a dead man’s money. Even if the man is dead. Even if the money would be otherwise lost.
– On the opposite, it’s totally fine to take with you something of a memory of a deceased person. Even if the person is dead, even if the process of finding the wallets takes time & energy, even if it’s not that important to them, they do this for both the memory of the dead one and for their love for the relatives of the deceased. Instead of focusing on surviving, they focus on the emotions of the relatives of dead persons. This is totally opposite to living as an animal, for survival.
– The passengers have in wallets symbols (photographs) of their loved ones.
– They stop to pray for the deceased prior to leaving the set.
– Even if this may get them into trouble, one person defies the wolves by decapitating one and throwing the head at them.
– One guy prefers to die alone, in the middle of beautiful scenery. He ignores the surviving instinct and stops fighting. No animal would ever commit suicide.
– There are a lot of scenes with courage.
– Ottway’s wife lives after her death. She’s not dead, the memories live past her life. It’s in his head.
– Finally, the whole movie is a survival struggle – the wolves struggle to live, and even if they attack, they don’t dare attacking the group of people. People run all the time. Except for the end part. Ottway faces his fears and attacks. He’s alone against the wolves, and he attacks. He’s better than the wolves (who don’t dare to attack).
To me, the movie is a metaphor – what is important for you?
– Living as long as possible, and fulfilling animal desires – surviving, safety, procreation; versus
– Living for things which are not material (courage in front of death, living with memories, love for the other, spiritual processes, human habits, symbols)?
Is the movie depressing? Almost all the humans die (even Ottway’s wife). Yet, to me, the movie shows that people can live for other things than just surviving. Ottway’s wife lives after her death. People who survive the crash, by acting as humans, and not as animals, prove worthy of the name “human being”.
I consider it the second movie I really like, along with:
- Le Notti di Cabiria – The best movie I’ve seen. The one movie I recommend seeing to anyone I know over 15 years of age. Go see it now! – Get a result now!
My blog post in Romanian about it:
- The Grey: La limita supravieţuirii (2012) – al doilea film care mi-a plăcut dintre toate pe care le-am văzut – Fii eficient!
and how it shaped my life: