In his opening narration, Liam Neeson's Ottway insists that he belongs among the other "ex-cons, fugitives, drifters and assholes, the men unfit for mankind" that he works with at a remote Arctic oil rig. But we know different by the way Ottway (first names are an unnecessary frivolity for this rugged bunch) sits alone at the bar, hazily reminiscing over his haloed lost love while those around him break out into drunken brawls. And when his suicide attempt is interrupted by a wolf's howl, we understand he shares some sense of communion with these vicious beasts — a useful quality when a plane crash leaves him and a small group of his fellow roughnecks stranded in the snow and surrounded by a pack of the snarling, glowing-eyed predators.
Neeson reteams with his A-Team director Joe Carnahan for this alternately tense and ridiculous action yarn, the latest entry in his transformation into the thinking man's action hero for nonthinkers. The bigger setpieces are tautly directed, but the harshest struggle in this film is not between the survivors and the elements but between the audience and the interminable stretches of portentous dialogue. Neeson's incessant reflections on facing death and the absence of God strain towards Bergman with wolf-punching but feel more like the closing-time ramblings of the local pub philosopher.