When I first saw the trailer for The Call of the Wild, I have to admit that I thought it looked terrible. The animals, mainly Buck, the star of Jack London’s classic 1903 novel of the same name, looked like he was created by a first year media arts student. But, it starred Harrison Ford, so it can’t be that bad, right?
It’s not. It’s actually really, really good.
Buck is a Saint Bernard/Scotch Collie mix living his best life with the family of Judge Miller (Bradley Whitford). He’s big, goofy and as soon as you see him you just want to give him a big ole hug. He’s also nothing but trouble. And Judge Miller has had it up to here with his antics. But before anything can be done, Buck is lured away by a gang of poachers and sent to the Alaskan Yukon.
Totally out of his element and in this strange new world, he finds himself working for Perrault and Françoise ( Omar Sy and Cara Gee), on a mail-delivery dog sled team. He eventually becomes an integral part of the team and he starts to learn what it means to be a leader. But soon enough he’s out of a job and falls into the hands of Hal (Dan Stevens in twisting-mustache, Snidely Whiplash mode). Evil Hal is looking for gold in them thar hills but when John Thornton (Ford) gets wind of it, he does his best to stop them. It’s getting too late in the season and the snow thaw will surely lead to the death of his newly acquired sled dogs. Hal heads out anyway and it turns out that Thornton was right. But thankfully, Thorton was there just in time to rescue Buck and take him back to his home… and Buck’s new home.
This is when the film, directed by Chris Sanders with beautiful cinematography by Janusz Kaminski, gets exceptionally good. Ford’s Thornton has lost literally everything. His young son has died, his wife has left him and he just wants to be alone, bottle of whiskey in hand. Buck is his last and only thing that’s keeping him sane at this point. Ford is superb here and I feel like it’s his best work in a while.
The two form a bond that only human and animal can hold. A lot of the scenes between the two are incredibly funny, incredibly sweet and at times, sad. They both look out for each other and both know that each will be there for the other.
Yeah, at the beginning of the film the CGI on Buck and the animals isn’t the best but it either got better as the film went on or I just got used to it. Buck is a fully formed character that you will absolutely fall in love with. And by the end, when he starts answer that ‘call of the wild’, you’ll be sad to see him – or what was him – go. If you’re a sucker for films about animals, this one is right up your alley.