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Wolf Totem, Blu-ray 3D (2015)

Wolf Totem, Blu-ray 3D (2015)

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Actors: Ba Sen, Zha Bu, Shaofeng Feng, Shawn Dou
Studio: Columbia/ Sony Pictures 46585 [12/15/15]
Music: James Horner
Video: 2.40:1 for 16:9 1080p HD color 3D or 2D
Audio: Mandarin Chinese DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: “The Nature of the World,” “The Director’s Adventure,” A Look at the Cast, Respecting the Environment
Length: 122 min.
Rating: ****1/2

This was director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s film adaptation of a novel by Jiang Rong, and a Chinese/American coproduction shot among the nomadic herdsmen of Inner Mongolia. During the so-called Cultural Revolution, a young student from Beijing is sent to live for two years among the tribesmen in Mongolia. They struggle to keep their place in the world between the advance of civilization from the south and their traditional enemies – the wolves.

The student flaunts the rules by capturing a wolf cub and instead of killing it, makes a hidden hole in the ground and raises it as his pet.  A commissar in charge of the herdsmen is involved in the story, as well as the widow of a tribesman who is killed. The cinematography of the gorgeous Mongolian scenery is amazing, especially in 3D, and the acting and action is entirely believable. The crew used a Canadian “wolf whisperer,” and spent three years raising the Mongolian wolves in the film from cubs that became close to their human trainers. The extras should be seen first, because they really round out understanding of what you see in the film. Annaud reports that Hollywood usually uses dogs as wolves in films, but they are entirely different. You’ll probably have a completely different understanding of wolves after watching this amazing film.

There is quite a bit of killing of wolves that may be hard for some to take, but the general feeling of the film is lovely. The final scene is the student preparing to return to Beijing, saying goodbye to the now-grown wolf cub in the distance, who has been freed.

—John Sunier

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