My original plan for this week’s Phenomenal 5 was to look at survival movies. But as I thought on it I quickly realized it’s such a broad category. There are so many different variations of survival throughout many different genres. Instead I’ve decided to look at movies pitting humans against nature. This too encompasses a lot and I wanted to include as much variety as possible. So each movie offers a different look at nature but each has that element of human survival in the face of some of the harshest or most rugged conditions. Now with so many movies to consider it would be pretty lame to call this the definitive list. But as I look at these five choices I have no problem calling them phenomenal.
#5 – “DELIVERANCE”
Okay I know “Deliverance” may be a stretch for this list but I think it certainly deserves a place here. Four men on a canoeing trip in the wilderness end up with more than they bargained for. After a deadly run in with a couple of hillbillies, the four set out to escape the forest. But the rugged and isolated territory has different plans. The jagged rocks and raging rapids get the best of them and their paranoia begins to eat away at their psyche. Now an argument could be made that the real threat are the hillbillies and not nature. But I think the hillbillies are a part of the specific nature we see and it’s the environment that takes the biggest toll on the four men. That’s why it’s on this list.
#4 – “127 Hours”
In the sensational “127 Hours” James Franco plays a free-spirited adventurer who with one slip of the foot ends up trapped inside a narrow crevice with his arm wedged under a boulder. He’s left alone with seemingly no way to get out of this predicament. The unforgiving terrain of Blue John Canyon in southern Utah is brilliantly portrayed by director Danny Boyle. The heat of the day, the cold nights, the dry climate, and the torrential rain all play a part of this area’s unpredictability. I found “127 Hours” to be a powerful story and this man’s struggle against the elements and nature are a big part of that.
#3 – “SAHARA”
No, I’m not talking about the Matthew McConaughey action cheesefest. This is the 1943 Humphrey Bogart World War II action picture about a tank crew separated from their unit In the middle of the harsh and punishing desert. They pick up an assortment of people along the way but soon they all face the brutality of the conditions. Add to this a Nazi unit that’s hot on their trail and things couldn’t get worse. But even the Nazi’s themselves aren’t above nature and ultimately it’s the desert that ends up with the upper hand throughout the entire movie.
#2 – “CAST AWAY”
So far on the list we’ve seen a dense forest with a raging river, canyon territory, and a desert. In “Cast Away” nature is presented in the form of a beautiful deserted island. Tom Hanks washes ashore the remote island after a terrible plane crash. It’s undeniable and relaxing beauty is deceiving especially when you have no food or shelter. The hot sun, the high tides, and the heavy rains flex their muscles but after four years on the island it’s Hanks who almost tames nature. Director Robert Zemeckis does a sensational job of bringing this incredible story to life and the sheer beauty and force of nature are both on display.
#1 – “ALIVE”
The 1993 survival drama “Alive” is a movie that has fascinated me since I first saw it. It’s based on the true story of a Uruguayan rugby team who are onboard a plane that crashes high in the snow-covered Andes mountains. Their plane is tore apart and many are hurt or killed. The dwindling group of survivors attempt to live on limited supplies in the face of blizzards, snow drifts, and bitter cold temperatures. Of all the movies on this list, I don’t think nature ravages the people or drives them to the edge more than in “Alive”. And to know that it was based on real life events makes it even more intense. This is a great movie but also a tough one to watch.
So there’s my list of phenomenal man versus nature films. Agree or disagree? Please take time to leave your thoughts below.