Austin Film Festival Review: The Great Alone


Director:Greg Kohs

Cast:Lance Mackey

Running Time:82 Minutes


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.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.

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