The eternal struggle of man against the dangers of the natural world is prime fodder for filmmakers. Setting your scene in the harsh wildlands of the world is the perfect set up for tales of heroism and tragedy.

This coming Monday sees the release of Into the Grizzly Maze, a tense thriller from David Hack (the man behind the camera of Saw V), starring James Marsden, Billy Bob Thornton and Thomas Jane. The film is set in the bleak wilds of Alaska and pits a local Sheriff, sworn to protect the endangered Grizzly Bear from poachers, against an infamous bear hunter who is out to bag the prize of his life.

Here’s a heart-stopping clip from the film,

Adam Lowes takes us through his six picks from the cinematic annals, to find the greatest tales of Man Vs. Nature

Fitzcarraldo Fitzcarraldo

Werner Herzog’s beautiful and bonkers vision of a magnificent obsession almost rivalled Apocalypse Now around that time for the high drama unfolding behind the camera. Thankfully, much like Coppola’s grand opus, the resulting film was anything but the disaster many feared.

Opera-obsessed European Brian Fitzgerald, aka ‘Fitzcarraldo’ (Klaus Kinski) has a dream of building a theatre to house his passion in the middle of the dense, balmy Peruvian juggle. In order to realise his ambition, he must first make a fortune in the rubber business, which means he has to somehow pull an enormous river boat across a small mountain.

The sequence where this seemingly impossible feat is achieved remains one of the most striking and awe-inspiring in all of cinema.


CAST AWAY, US 2000 TOM HANKS CASTAWAY US 2000 TOM HANKS Date 2000, Photo by: Mary Evans/C20TH FOX / DREAMWORKS/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection(10305969)


A film that works as a reminder of the talents of its director and lead (as if that was needed), Castaway is a contemporary Robinson Crusoe update, with its very own Friday figure in the form of Wilson, an inanimate basketball with crudely-etched facial features.

Never has the ‘everyman’ label been as fitting for lead Tom Hanks who plays Chuck Noland, a FedEx employee stranded on an uninhabited island following a plane crash in the South Pacific. The almost silent hour-long section in the middle of the film which sees the solitary Nolan making a home for himself on the tropical island and struggling with his loneliness is completely riveting and offers a powerful testament to how tremendous an actor Hanks is.

Journey Into the Wild

Into The Wild

While most of the protagonists in these films are battling the wilderness through no fault of their own but sheer bad luck, it’s a principled decision by the lead character here to head off the beaten track (with tragic consequences) in this Sean Penn-directed drama.

The film is based on the true story of university graduate Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) who rejecting the idea of conforming to society norms, and instead embarked on a two year jaunt across North America and up to the wilds of Alaska before his untimely end.

McCandless obviously had a romanticised, Kerouac-inspired view of his escapades, and it’s hard not to get swept up in the unbridled freedom this cinematic interpretation of his life offers.

The Edge

The Edge

Writer David Mamet swaps his office-bound survivalist tale (Glengarry Glen Ross) for a one set in remotes of Alaskan (a popular location for this sub-genre, it would seem) in this exciting two-hander action adventure.

The combustible duo of Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin certainly helps keep the acting lively and energetic, but it’s the introduction of a Jaws-esque predator (a fearsome bear who stalks the pair as they battle the elements) which brings things up a notch. It’s deftly-directed by New Zealand filmmaker Lee Tamahori, who would go on squander his talents with CG-heavy drivel like Die Another Day and xXx: State of the Union.

Perhaps owing to his homeland, he feels particularly at ease here shooting in the wild.


Liam Neeson - The Grey

The Grey

Man against the elements (and a nasty pack of ravenous wolves) couldn’t be more obvious and thrilling in this absorbing adventure yarn which thrusts Liam Neeson and his work colleagues deep in the unforgivingly bleak and treacherous wilds of Alaska after their plane home from work takes an unfortunate nosedive.

Packed full of heart-stopping set pieces as the men make their desperate, disaster-filled trudge towards civilisation, director Joe Carnahan is also interested in the existential toll of having to face the very real possibility of a cold, isolated death. This is what sets the film apart from your traditional survival yarn.

It’s not just the physical hurdles that need to be overcome if the team are to make it out alive.



The Kings of Summer

The bored and disillusioned teens here may be pretty far removed from Neeson’s rugged team of oil drillers, but in their own ways they’re attempting the masculine pursuit of opting out of society (nagging, overbearing parents) to live off the grid on the cusp of the great wilderness (a nearby forest).

This humorous and bewitching debut from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (soon to be tackling another story of wild terrain with King Kong prequel Skull Island) is a coming-of-age, sometimes surrealist, variant on the survivalist yarn. The back-to nature exploits of a trio of school pals offers an evocative and sweet portrayal of the kind of boundless fun (and unforeseeable dangers) that teen freedom offers in those heady months of summer.


Here’s the trailer for Into the Grizzly Maze, out on DVD and digital platforms from the 17th of August.