Wolf Totem

WOLF TOTEM See listing. Rating: NNNN Watch online: iTunes Wolf.

WOLF TOTEM See listing. Rating: NNNN

Watch online: iTunes

Wolf Totem is a powerful and beautiful story about a Beijing student (Feng Shaofeng) who adopts a wolf cub when he’s sent to live and work with nomadic Mongolian herders during China’s Cultural Revolution. But wolves are an ever-present threat to the herders’ lives and livelihood. At the same time, the community is threatened by the growing incursions of civilization.

Feng makes a likeable student. His story is humane but never sentimental and moves in surprising directions. The other characters are fairly clichéd – wise old man, love interest, best friend – but the cast handles them with a natural dignity that brings them to life.

Director Jean-Jacques Annaud, best known for Quest For Fire and The Name Of The Rose, keeps the pace brisk and makes good use of 3D to give the wolves an awe-inspiring majesty and malevolence. The device also enhances the bleak beauty of the Mongolian grasslands.

Among the outstanding set pieces, the most spectacular is a battle between the wolf pack and mounted herders trying to control a horse stampede in the middle of a blizzard. Subtitled. 121 minutes.

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