September 7, 2013

The Snow Walker

Charles Martin Smith, 2003

Veteran pilot Charlie Halliday (Barry Pepper) agrees to transport a sick Inuk girl named Kanaalaq (Annabella Piugattuk) along in his bush plane to bring her to a hospital after he makes a delivery to a small tribe. Soon after takeoff the plane crashes and he is left in the frozen wilderness to survive. His friends lose hope of finding him in the tundra, but he is fortunate to have taken the ailing passenger along with him.

Based on the short story "Walk Well My Brother", this drama contains some familiar themes. The American man teamed up with the capable native woman is similar to Dances with Wolves. The plane crashing in the wilderness, forcing the characters to utilize their survival skills is similar to The Edge. But this film certainly has some unique qualities, and it is certainly one of the better Survival dramas made. A few minutes into the film you get a feel for Charlie's character, as he boozes it up while playing pool in the bar. He's full of himself, and everyone knows it. Some of the men around him are bothered by it, while some women are attracted to it. It's similar to his character Frank in Spike Lee's 25th Hour. A man with a clear Inuit descent accidentally bumps into him and is clearly apologetic about it, but Charlie pushes him away with dismissive aggression ("I am NOT your brother..."). This shows the divide between his people and the natives, the natives who he would later come to appreciate for helping him survive. Kanaalaq is at first just a coughing girl wrapped in animal furs, but she soon becomes a rather critical key to his survival. Without her help, he without a doubt would not have made it. Her instincts had a relaxing quality, because she never appears to be out of her element. The plane crashes, she immediately throws a line into the water to catch a fish - knowing that they need to be worrying about their next meal. Her lack of English makes it difficult to communicate at first, but she slowly picks up on some words. Piugattuk was very effective at showing someone who was trying to use the English language but was still getting caught up in some of her native tongue. While the barren landscape at times feels a bit too forgiving and lacking natural predators, it was aesthetically pleasing. There were some really beautiful moments in the film such as one scene where you see a purple sunset combined with an Inuit song playing in the background. In the end Charlie is humbled by his circumstances, while watching you imagine that if he ever makes it home - he's going to be a changed man.

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