Blind and lost in the woods is no way to go through life. But that’s the predicament Afghan War veteran Royce Davis finds himself in when the last leg of a trip home — across a lake by boat, with his sister’s Alaskan Malamute, Chinook, which is returning from Africa, of all places, at the same time — goes awry. The captain, an old man by the name of Fred Boggs, “knows these waters like the back of his hand,” which is supposed to be comforting for Davis and us as viewers.
But what’s a good adventure movie if the plot line doesn’t find a way to strip that comfort as quickly as it delivers it? All the comforting knowledge in the world does you no good if you end up rendered unconscious by a heart attack on the water, as Boggs does. The now-pilotless boat hurtles aground in the Canadian wilderness.
Davis’ family — sister, Susan, and his daughter, Erin, and son, Max — are waiting on the other side of the waterway for a boat that never shows, and there the adventure begins. Navigating the wild can be precarious enough if you’re sighted and fully stocked. Navigating blind and injured (a gash over the right eye when the boat crashed), in the mid-Autumnal Canadian cold, with only a bag of beef jerky, a bottled water, a flare gun, no cell signal and a dog … well, it’s hardly optimal.
Authorities swoop in to search for the boat, but there’s a lot of real estate to cover and the water is 400 feet deep in some places. Meanwhile, a local fisherman finds the boat and Boggs, in critical condition, but not Davis. Just a handwritten note he left behind. He wasn’t blind all his life — he lost his sight in Afghanistan at age 19, thanks to a roadside bomb — so it’s entirely plausible that he could remember how to write, by feel, if not by sight. More importantly, he’s still alive and it’s a shot of fresh hope at a time it’s needed most.
Young Max, however, doesn’t think the authorities are doing or saying nearly enough. So, he puts his survivalist instincts into action and sneaks out of the house to go in search of his father. Like father, he leaves a note for Aunt Susan. Erin reluctantly tags along — can’t let Max hog the credit if he succeeds — but proves more a liability than an asset when she fumbles what few supplies they have into the current while crossing a river in the driving rain. You might ask why she is carrying the whole load instead of, at the very least, splitting it with Max. It’s easier if you don’t.
So, now instead of one person for authorities to find, the kids have tripled the burden. And, of course, there are natural predators to contend with as well — a mountain lion and an aggressive wolf. But thankfully, Chinook, pressed into service as a guide dog, is on the case. As soon as Davis sets him free from seeing-eye duties to find help, it takes Chinook all of two minutes in movie time to locate Max and Erin and reunite them with their father. From there, it’s just a matter of time before Max uses a mirror inside Davis’ broken cell phone to reflect the sun and signal a plane flying nearby. Authorities dispatch a helicopter to the area, leading to a happy reunion.
It’s not a faith movie, even though Captain Walker (he’s the one attacked by the wolf) declares, “We need a miracle or, at the least, a lucky break!” But it progresses logically, even in a mildly entertaining fashion (as when Max enters his tent to find a skunk that his sister saw but failed to warn him about) and merits the Dove-approved Seal for All Ages.
The Dove Take:
If you absolutely have to get lost in the chilly Canadian woods, Chinook is the dog you want on the case, looking for you.