Top 5 Man vs. Nature Survival Films, in Honor of The Grey
Liam Neeson has become quite the badass as of late (IMO he's always been a badass...Darkman!), with machismo roles in Batman Begins, The A-Team, and of course Taken, in which he kills, like, more than 50 dudes with his bare hands in a manner that would make even Jack Bauer think twice about crossing him.
In his latest adventure of badassery, The Grey, which opens today, Neeson realigns with his A-Team director Joe Carnahan (Narc, Smoking Aces) to take on a pack of wolves after they hunt him and the rest of the survivors of an Alaskan plane crash.
Seriously. That's what the movie is all about. 117 minutes of awesomeness featuring the The Neese going toe to paw with viscous, vendetta-filled wolves in a winter wonderland from Hell.*
But don't let my testosterone-filled synopsis lead you astray; the film is a well-done, indie, and gritty take on the survival thriller subgenre, not to mention one of the best I've seen of said genre. So, in honor of The Grey opening today let's take a look back at some of the other cinematic iterations of men vs. wild.**
Hey guys! This will be fun! We'll make s'mores and snowmen. We should be outta here in no time!
The film that brought to pop culture consciousness the realities of what one must do to survive the harshest conditions. When times get tough, sometimes you'll find your fellow Uruguayan rugby teammate is willing to lend a helping hand ... or foot ... or whatever part of the body seems most tasty and tender. Seriously, this 1993 film -- based on the true story of the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crash in the Andes mountains -- is a staple of the genre, even being referenced in other survival films (The Grey for one) when it gets to the point where food rations are low and Nacho begins to look as delicious as his name sounds.
Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin face off against a Kodiak bear (played by the famous Bart the Bear) and each other in this tale of sex, lies and a really big plane crash into a lake. It doesn't get any manlier and rugged than AH and AB duking it out with a giant, four-legged, furry killing machine, armed with nothing more than their wits and the will to survive ... and then kill each other.
Hang in there, Tiger!
The most recent film to make our list is also the one that shows what it takes to truly survive. Sometimes you have to kill your fellow survivor. Sometimes you have to eat him. But what do you do when you're all by yourself in the wild, without anyone knowing where you are, and you get yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place? That's what happened to real-life adventurist Aron Ralson, portrayed by James Franco in 2010's survival drama. Fortunately, Ralson was handy with the gear he had with him. Unfortunately, he had to figure out how to use it to cut off said hand and the arm that was attached to it.
Tom Hanks gets all Swiss Family Robinson with a beachball after turning all Lord of the Flies and losing his mind when he's stuck on a deserted island for four years, after being the only survivor of a, yep, you guessed it, plane crash. And you thought those Lost folks had it bad! Hanks then goes all Professor from Gilligan's Island and builds himself a raft out of a porta potty and gets himself saved, only to find out that he's been declared dead and his girlfriend married his dentist. But hey, at least that lady finally gets her package! All in a day's work for FedEx!
We've been stuck in the snow, the forest, the desert, deserted islands, the ocean and now ... the final frontier. Tom Hanks seems to get himself stuck in these situations on more than one occasion doesn't he? The true story of the Apollo 13 moon mission gone awry made us aware that, if you're going to get stuck somewhere and have to MacGyver your way out, space is the last place you want to be. Because Houston, well, they can't do shit for you if you have a problem.
*They should just start titling all of Neeson's films by what he goes up against. Liam Neeson vs. Wolves. Liam Neeson vs. Teenage Prostitution Ringleaders. Liam Neeson vs. Nazis (in a much more action-packed Schindler's List sequel).
**Which in this case I'm defining as Man vs. Nature, as opposed to survival films where there's another threat such as a post-apocalypse wasteland, zombies, vampires, cyborgs, backwoods inbred maniacs, cannibals, crazy witches in the woods, smoke monsters, dinosaurs, or any other formidable foe.