Set to the beautiful backdrop of Alaska's arctic wilderness, Greg Kohs' The Great Alone is an inspirational story about love, understanding, and the refusal to give up. And though it isn't revolutionary in its presentation, it's hard to knock a film that's as emotionally charged as the one that centers around Lance Mackey, one of the greatest sled dog racers of all time who overcame ridiculous odds to just compete.
From his days as a young boy, cheering on his father as he won the iconic Iditarod race to his own run across Alaska many years later, The Great Alone works to blend the innocence of its subject with the rigors of its sport. And while the film occasionally loses sight of its central focus, Mackey is always there to flash a smile, tell a joke and bring everything back into focus.
Kohs does a fantastic job at presenting Mackey's story without getting bogged down in the details. Keeping much of it about racing, the film's director is able to keep the story moving forwarded, engaging the audience by refusing to get caught up in the details. Even when Mackey's life was threatened by cancer and his racing future was presumably finished, the film wages on with quick coverage of the life changing event"¦and then steering things back to the race track.
In taking this approach, Kohs is able to paint a full picture of Mackey, both his past and present. And he is able to create a deep understanding for the man behind the sled through a series of interviews with his family, friends and competitors, all of which shine a light on who Mackey really is and just how triumphant his comeback was.
The story itself plays perfectly against the white landscape of Alaska, and many will be drawn to Mackey's strong bond with the team of dogs. His love and respect for his canines is downright adorable. Their connection, captured at numerous points in the film, is on fine display when he stops, mere miles from the finish line, to speak to each of them individually and show appreciation for their work during the race. It is a heartfelt moment that was miraculously captured on film, offering up a truly unique side to the rugged man we've been cheering on since the film began.
In the end, The Great Alone is a well done film that achieves its main purpose: to showcase a man who refused to take no for an answer. The film itself isn't extraordinary; however, its story is. And though I'm not itching for a second viewing, I can say that I'm not disappointed with how I spent the eighty-two minutes of my life I used to watch it. Full of unintentional comedy, wit, and a wholesome main subject, the film hits all the right notes.