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Never Cry Wolf

Posted by martinteller on May 20, 2015

In between The Black Stallion and Fly Away Home, Carroll Ballard again explores developing relationships between humans and wild animals.  In this case, it’s Tyler (Charles Martin Smith, probably best known for American Graffiti and The Untouchables) getting dropped into the Arctic wilderness to study wolves… specifically to see if they’re eating all the caribou.  The film is loosely based on Farley Womat’s autobiographical book.  I don’t know how much was changed from the true story.  Wikipedia tells me that the Brian Dennehy character (or perhaps just certain things that he does) is an invention, which isn’t hard to believe.  He introduces some conflict late in the film that feels a little trumped-up and phony.  It’s the worst part of the movie.

The rest of it, however, is pretty good.  I never quite got the transcendent rush that I do from Stallion, perhaps because I don’t find the material as emotionally affecting.  Or perhaps because Hiro Nirata’s cinematography — although very good — isn’t as exhilarating as Caleb Deschanel’s (Mark Isham’s score is quite nice, however).  But there’s some wonderful bits of adventure here, as well as some intriguing study of the wolves.  It’s certainly not hard to feel a connection to both Tyler, learning to navigate the harsh wilderness, and the wolves “George” and “Angelina”, providing for their young pups.  The details of how Tyler goes about his difficult task are often fascinating, complemented by voiceover that sometimes contradicts — or is interrupted by — the onscreen action.

I could harp on the negatives, but the truth is none of them are terribly egregious.  It’s a lovely, consistently engaging nature/adventure movie with a solid central performance by Smith… and solid supporting performances by the wolves, as well.  Rating: Good (79)


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