Monthly Archives: March 2015

Film Review: Backcountry

Film Review: Backcountry

Backcountry, Adam MacDonald’s feature debut, looks at first glance like the thriller where People Who Should Know Better Go On A Risky Camping Trip. It’s more than that, but you have to stay with it.

We’ve got the obligatory “based on a true story” title at the beginning. I’m starting to think some writers use that phrase as a get-out-of-jail free card for poor plot development. Do we honestly need to be told it really happened before we can believe a black bear would stalk and attack a pair of isolated campers?

Mr. MacDonald has enough talent that he doesn’t need that kind of crutch. Once we get past a flawed setup, Backcountry is a tidy and effective thriller. There’s good acting, especially from Missy Peregrym. Christian Bielz’ cinematography is incredible.

Backcountry Alex and JennThe story opens with Alex (Jeff Roop) and Jenn (Ms. Peregrym) driving to a remote park. He’s the outdoorsman in the family, and he’s convinced Jenn to come for a weekend camping trip at his favorite site.

Backstory on these two begins to emerge, but ever so slowly. Jenn is an attorney, very Type A. Alex is a landscaper between jobs, and he takes most questions as an affront to his masculinity. Naturally, when a ranger offers them a map of the park, Alex turns it down on principle.

As Alex and Jenn make their way to his favorite spot, the tone of the film becomes increasingly sinister. They meet and end up having dinner with Brad (Eric Balfour), a deceptively affable man who claims to be a wilderness guide.Backcountry Brad

Alex thinks there’s a rapport between Jenn and Brad, and he’s immediately jealous. It doesn’t help that Brad challenges Alex about his knowledge of the park. For her part, Jenn tolerates Brad until he shows a distinctly creepy side. To the mutual relief of Alex and Jenn, Brad goes on his way after dinner.

After Brad exits, the pacing begins to feel more organic to the film. Alex notices bear prints on the trail. At night, they begin to hear ominous noises. There’s one unnerving scene at the tent-luckily for them, Alex and Jenn sleep through it. MacDonald seems more comfortable here, ironically, as the rest of us are anything but.

Backcountry AlexWhen the inevitable happens, it’s both hard to look and hard not to look at the screen. That is my unofficial and very subjective way of judging whether or not a thriller is doing its job. Once Backcountry gets into that second act, it does its job and then some. Even so, I keep getting the feeling this film has unrealized potential.

New writers have a tendency to delay reveals, the better to create a big finale. That tendency is evident here. If certain aspects of the plot were revealed earlier, it would be easier for the viewers to establish rapport with the characters, especially Alex. It would help the film’s cause immeasurably if viewers could be on his side. Giving hints of the reason he’s brought Jenn to this park might go a long way toward accomplishing this goal.

As it is, we need to consider what MacDonald has accomplished with his first feature. Backcountry is a very promising start. I look forward to his next.

Theme: (Not My) Mother Nature

Related Posts: Film Appreciation: Deliverance  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-appreciation-deliverance/

(Not My) Mother Nature: List For Week Ending March 29, 2015  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/not-my-mother-nature-list-for-week-ending-march-29-2015/

Film Appreciation: Deliverance

Film Appreciation: Deliverance

Deliverance has always been a film in its own category. It tells a tough story in no-nonsense terms, and it doesn’t even try to be liked. The closest it comes is during the brief musical interlude (inaccurately named Dueling Banjos) early in the film. For the most part, Deliverance shows four men from the cityContinue Reading

(Not My) Mother Nature: List for Week Ending March 29, 2015

(Not My) Mother Nature: List for Week Ending March 29, 2015

Let’s face it, nature can be cruel. Just ask the characters in the films on this week’s list. These characters have contended with tsunamis, uncooperative rocks, ticked-off bears…. As always, this isn’t intended to be an all-inclusive list. Reader contributions welcome! Please write to us via comments below. Backcountry (Film Review in Thinking Cinema 3/27/15 http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-review-backcountry/Continue Reading

Film Appreciation: Broadcast News

Film Appreciation: Broadcast News

Broadcast News is a longtime favorite of mine. It’s smart and funny, with a message that turned out to be ahead of its time (1987). The writing is fantastic, and the acting, especially by the three leads, is pitch-perfect. This film is a joy to watch. The story involves three young TV news professionals: JaneContinue Reading

Integrity In Media: List For Week Ending March 22, 2015

Integrity In Media: List For Week Ending March 22, 2015

Sounds like a great idea, right? Well, maybe we can get it to catch on! As a start, try these films. This isn’t intended as an all-inclusive list. Reader suggestions are welcome!   While We’re Young (Film Review in Thinking Cinema 3/20/15)  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-review-while-were-young/ Broadcast News (Article in Thinking Cinema 3/20/15)  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-review-while-were-young/ Shattered Glass (2003) AbsenceContinue Reading

Film Review: While We’re Young

Film Review: While We’re Young

While We’re Young, Noah Baumbach’s first film since Frances Ha, is a comedy about a childless middle-aged couple and their friendship with a couple twenty years younger. Cast forty-something Frances and Benji as the middle-aged couple, and this film could be a comic masterpiece. Since While We’re Young is about Josh and Cornelia Srebnick, we’reContinue Reading

Film Review: Charlie’s Country

Film Review: Charlie’s Country

Changes are an inevitable part of life, but no one likes changes they didn’t initiate. That’s especially true for the warriors among us, those who do battle while adhering to a strict code of behavior. Rolf de Heer’s film, Charlie’s Country, is the story of a warrior’s struggle to find his place in a rapidlyContinue Reading

Film Appreciation: Whale Rider

Film Appreciation: Whale Rider

During the 1980s, the daughters of author Witi Ihimaera complained to him about the large numbers of passive girl characters in books for young people. Ihimaera provided them with an alternative by writing Whale Rider, published in 1987. The novel became a film in 2002, with a script written by director Niki Caro. Whale RiderContinue Reading