Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
TIFF ’14: Backcountry
like to think nature is romantic and awe-inspiring. Actually, it is dangerous
and uncomfortable. Alex thinks he will prove the former idealized view to his
reluctant girlfriend Jenn, but instead he will simply confirm latter in spades
during the course of Adam MacDonald’s Backcountry, which screens
during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.
insists this trip is going to so awesome, because he will show Jenn his
favorite trail to hike. You see it leads to this totally cool lake. Of course,
he knows these woods so well he does not even need to pick up a map at the
ranger station. Frankly, it is rather baffling why she didn’t just dump his
butt in the car. She will soon wonder about that herself, but before she
reaches that point, they run into Brad, a slightly intense trail guide, whom brings
out Alex’s competitive instincts.
Brad takes his Irish accent and moves on, but the couple remains uneasy. After
all, it is obvious to Jenn the stranger knows the territory much better than her
boyfriend. In fact, Alex soon has them hopelessly lost. With their water and
provisions depleted, the not so happy campers soon see signs of bear activity.
billed as a thriller, Backcountry is
more closely akin to Lee Tamahori’s under-appreciated The Edge. While nobody compares to Sir Anthony Hopkins, MacDonald’s
cast is definitely more accomplished than that of Christopher Denham’s Preservation, another natural comparison
title. However, Denham wastes little time cutting to the chase, whereas Backcountry is rather slow out of the
is worth repeating, if you want to survive in the wild, stick with the city
folk, because you can trust their survival instincts far more than those of the
granola outdoorsy types. Jenn will be a case in point. Missy Peregrym is suitably
down-to-earth as the down-to-business Jenn. Not afraid to get muddy, she comes
to look like she is surviving quite an ordeal. In contrast, Jeff Roop’s whiny
portrayal of Alex does not wear as well. However, it is nice to see Nicholas
Campbell (of Da Vinci’s Inquest)
appearing briefly as the park ranger and confirming Backcountry’s Canadian bonafides.
MacDonald nicely stages the film’s natural
perils (definitely including an animal attack here and there), but the relationship
issues are probably a bit too prominent in the dramatic mix. Never dull (but sometimes
exhausting for the wrong reasons) Backcountry
is an imperfect but competently executed survival story that will probably
count on plenty of local support when it screens again tomorrow (9/10) at this
Labels: Canadian Cinema, TIFF '14