Peak Oil Flicks

The Grey (2012) - A Peak Oil Flicks Quick Take

John Ottway has the Job at the End of the World. He is a sharpshooter who protects oil rig workers from animal predators lurking in the wilderness surrounding a remote Alaskan oil facility. When Ottway (Liam Neeson) and some of the workers board a light plane for Nome,  he finds that his knowledge of wolf behavior will come in handy. The plane crashes and he and the handful of survivors face an ultimate battle of survival with no fuel, food or GPS signal.
Worse, they are surrounded and strategically picked off by a pack of Robowolves – huge, smart and deadly. Who will prevail in this elemental test of man against beast?
Well, a related question would be, why would humans regularly risk life and limb – not to mention frostbite – to extract black gunk from the ground?
As a fan of the reality show Ice Road Truckers, I might claim some insight into this conundrum. Yes, some atavistic part of me resonates to the sight of heavy machinery hauling rigging and supplies in the trackless, snow-covered void. (A New York  Times columnist reviewing the series’ appeal explains that the “leave-nothing-but-your-footprints, green kind of eco-travelers are too mellow and conscientious to be interesting to watch. Instead, the burly, bearded, swearing men who blow methyl hydrate into their own transmissions…are much better television.")

Yet even the most enthusiastic viewer of IRT begins to question the diminishing returns for fleets of diesel-belching trucks traversing back and forth to natural gas exploration and extraction sites of the frozen north. The same applies to those workers who ply their trade on the offshore oil platforms or the dwindling reserves under Middle Eastern desert sands. It’s a career choice with a built-in expiration date. Unfortunately for everybody, it leaves behind a ruined landscape often unfit for sustaining either people or animal populations.
The Grey benefits from magnificent scenery (which includes Neeson's brooding, haunted visage) and good character development. As for the wolves of The Grey, they are a Hollywood fantasy that most zoologists would repudiate.  More typical wolf behavior is to flee from human contact. But with humans penetrating, and despoiling, ever-more inaccessible and dangerous habitats in the quest for the last drops of fossil deposits, maybe the wolves –and caribou, elk, moose, artic foxes, and polar bears --have the right to hold a grudge.

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