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Review: 'Land'

Survival is a great movie theme. It’s reflective of the human condition.

We are all trying to survive each and every day of our lives. The degree of struggling and suffering required to achieve that varies greatly, depending on who you are and where you are and what your predicament is.

Surviving in a modern, urban environment is one thing, even when you factor in a global pandemic. Surviving out in the wild, alone, is another thing entirely.

It’s a powerful theme in movies like Man in the Wilderness, starring Richard Harris (1971), Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks (2000) or Adrift with Shailene Woodley (2018).

It’s been the key ingredient in the popular TV series called Survivor which debuted back in 2000, though it was more about gamesmanship and backstabbing than actual, primal survival skills.

Underlying all these stories of survival is a sense of adventure and escape.

The challenge of going head-to-head with nature itself in all its glorious beauty and unchallengeable power, as well as the deep psychological allure of getting back to basics, back to a simpler, purer, more fundamental way of life.

All that is what motivates Robin Wright’s character in Land.

She’s a woman whose life has been tragically shattered, leaving her numbingly alone and in a search of escape to a place devoid of people. Any and all people.

Her radical plan is to move to a remote cabin deep in the wilds of Wyoming, where she can escape reality and find peace and solace and confront the ghosts from her past.

While her motivation is understandable, the details of her plan aren’t.

Her powerful emotions and fragile mental state lead to snap decisions that override sound reason and simple common sense.

She discards her cell phone, sells her car and is dropped off at a deserted, isolated cabin that she has purchased, in the middle of nowhere with no electricity, running water, modern conveniences, or contact with the outside world.

Initially, it is the idyllic, natural environment she dreamed of, with miles of trees and streams.

There is fresh mountain air. There are beautiful sunsets.

But then reality sets in when winter soon approaches and her meager supplies quickly begin to run out.

She discovers there is an ugly, unforgiving side of nature. If the brutal weather conditions don’t kill you, the menacing wildlife might; particularly if you neglected to pack a rifle.

It is at this point that Land steers away from harsh reality toward modern, romantic fantasy.

After being pursued by a bear, she miraculously discovers a rifle and ammunition in an old shed on the property, in working condition despite exposure to the elements.

But even that can’t save her from the snow and subzero temperatures that take their toll leaving her unconscious on the cabin floor.

Enter a modern-day knight in shining armor in the form of a handsome, benevolent hunter/trapper, accompanied by a native American nurse who discover her, against all odds, just in the nick of time and bring her back to health.

It’s here that Land strays further from survival story into the domain of paperback novel romance.

Without disclosing more of the story, let’s just say it becomes a strained melodrama of two people, clearly meant for each other struggling to break the emotional baggage bonds that keep them apart.

Land marks the feature film directorial debut of Robin Wright, whose long list of screen performances include: The Princess Bride (1987), Forrest Gump (1994), and Wonder Woman (2017).

She began her career as a teenage model and later became a talented, successful actress. In more recent years, she has taken a seat in the director’s chair in a handful of projects.

The screen direction isn’t the problem with Land. The problem is the direction taken by the script, moving from raw emotions and risk to something resembling a soap opera set in the great outdoors.

It’s a tedious, somewhat improbable journey with a relatively flat, unsatisfying ending.

Cinematically, Land is a throwback to the kind of movies that Robin Wright made earlier in her career-- movies like Message in a Bottle (1999) co-starring Kevin Costner.

Movies about improbable attraction and undying love despite insurmountable odds.

That’s pretty much what’s happening here.

The dramatic possibilities of a story about a strong, determined woman facing the elements and putting her life on the line are given a station wagon back seat to a somewhat conventional tale about the redemptive powers of love.

By and large, Land is a lot of picturesque landscapes and a hunk with a charming accent who looks like he stepped out of the pages of an outdoor clothing catalog.


Land opens in theaters February 12.

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