There are no unwelcome surprises in the film The Call of the Wild – the classic adaptation of American novelist Jack London’s 1903 book set in Canada. The lack of surprise is either because you have read the book or, use instinct to guess the likely direction the film will take. Themes of love, friendship, destiny and belonging all dove tail together in the form of a huge, loveable St Bernard called Buck.
Harrison Ford lends his gravitas and narrates the story which elevates the production to a whole new level but perhaps the unsung hero is ‘Perrault’ played by Omar Sy. Buck is a house dog owned by a reputable Judge and has been spoilt rotten. He is stolen and sold as a ‘slave’ sled dog and during the ordeal treated inhumanely – he has only ever known loving masters and quickly realises that the world outside of his home is brutal.
Enter Perrault – his first new master. Perrault is a kind but no nonsense man who works hard which is deeply important to his sense of honour. He teaches Buck what it is to be part of a pack and not a single minded animal. This role is executed brilliantly with just the right amount of humour, tension and grace. Buck becomes a hero more than once and develops a hunger for the wild as his former domestic life fades and his canine instincts kick in – he starts to realise what he is really made for.
As the story unfolds Buck’s destiny changes again just at the point that he is feeling secure. He is forced to reconcile with the fact that he has no control over his circumstances and learn on his feet (or paws). Here develops a bond with his next owner played by Harrison Ford who has rescued him from another cruel and wicked man. Ford plays ‘Thornton’ – initially a hard man wracked by pain but like everyone, with a back story. He softens towards Buck who as a dog, poses no threat to him relationally! We learn of terrible tragedy that has befallen Thornton in another life but one which colours his present – much mirrored by Buck’s own journey.
The film is somewhere between a Disney feel good and a serious reflection of the way in which life can be unpredictable. It’s filmed in some beautiful locations with a mix of CGI and live action and set in a simpler time. The overarching theme of an innate inner calling towards destiny for us all comes over loud and clear and is well packaged in a feel good and riotous adventure. You may well consider getting a dog if you let your guard down!
Heather Riley is a mum-of-two and content administrator at Premier.