Never Cry Wolf
Adapted from Mowat's best-selling autobiography, this film is beautifully crafted, and has a clear message about ecological balance. Released to theaters in 1983, it's every bit as good on DVD.
A young biologist, Tyler (Charles Martin Smith) has been offered the best assignment of his career by the Canadian Wildlife Service: to study wolves in the northern Barrens, and to gather evidence that they are depleting caribou herds, thus giving the government enough evidence against the wolves to justify eradicating them.
What Tyler discovers, however, is that, still living in perfect balance with caribou - as they have done for millennia - wolves attack and kill only the sickest and weakest members of those herds, thus making the herds stronger. In fact, human hunters are unselectively killing too many caribou, contributing to their downfall.
Director Ballard misses some of Mowat's wry humor but shows the majestic scenery and beauty of the Arctic wilderness. Sweeping vistas form the backdrop of human and animal dramas, as the viewer receives a critical irony: the wolves take on a kind of humanity sorely missing in most of the story's human characters. In this sparsely-cast film, those included Rosie (Dennehy), a pilot entirely geared to personal profit; Mike (Samson Jorah), an Inuit who befriends Tyler and lends him a cabin; and Ootek (Zachary Illimangnaq), an Inuit shaman who knows more about wolves than most wolves do.
Mowat twice spent long stretches in the Canadian north studying wolves as a young man, about which his 1963 book is a colorful narrative. One of the first accounts of wolf behavior in the wild, it wasn't always taken seriously by the scientific community because of Mowat's fanciful wit.
Ballard's film starts with the author's basic story, visually highlights its sense of wonder at the harmony of nature, and concludes with the postulate that humans are insensitive to other life-forms. The result is a beautiful, meaningful movie.
Farley Mowat, from his autobiography
Charles Martin Smith, Brian Dennehy, Samson Jorah, d Zachary Illimangnaq
Wolves, Canadian barrens, caribou, Farley Mowat, predators c
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