“Look, there’s a wolf!” young Ben, 8, exclaimed, staring out the window of the small plane.
“It’s a moose,” his teen sister Sam countered.
Truth is, neither one could be sure at the altitude that Jason, their pilot and the man who hopes to become their stepfather, is flying. They were traversing a mountainous stretch in route to a rendezvous with the kids’ grandparents. In four days, Jason’s girlfriend—whom he hoped to make his fiancée very soon—would join them to celebrate Christmas at her parents’ remote cabin in the woods.
“Can you fly closer to that mountain?” Ben asks, wanting to win the competition for accurate animal identification with his sister.
Jason hesitates, saying, “Well, it’s not in the flight plan.” But then he demurs. “What’s the worst that can happen?” he says.
It’s the kind of question you should never, ever ask when flying a small plane at the beginning of an action-survival movie.
Especially when wolves await in the wilderness below.
Legacy Peak is, as you might have surmised, a movie where things go wrong. Jason’s plane soon strikes a flock of birds, forcing Jason to make an emergency landing on a small clearing near Legacy Peak. From there, the trio’s unexpected battle for survival commences.
External threats waste little time making their presence felt. The wintry weather is deadly enough. But then there are those wolves, hungry carnivores whose haunting, howling voices get closer and closer. Jason—who’s familiar with the area and adept at wilderness survival, ‘natch—coaches the kids on what to do and how to stay one step ahead of their canine pursuers.
But there are other enemies here, too. The internal variety. Jason questions his capacity to be a good husband and father. And when things go wrong, those insecurities become almost paralyzing.
The kids, for their part, have sussed out that Jason and Noelle are on the verge of getting engaged. Sam, who’s strong, suspicious and independent, isn’t interested in Jason becoming her stepfather. Some of the mean things she says to him out of fear become fuel to power Jason’s growing doubts. And Sam tries to take control at one point in ways that make things much worse for everyone.
None of that is particularly positive, of course. In fact, Sam’s attempted coup is almost the group’s undoing. Slowly, however, Jason and Sam move toward a détente and strive to help each other. And as the story unfolds, we learn that Jason has weathered deep losses and trauma himself after losing his mother and being abandoned by his father.
“My whole life,” he tells the teen, “I was told I didn’t fit in. … I always wondered if I have what it takes.” By now, Sam’s suspicion has evolved into sympathy, and she says of her own deceased father, “He was there. He wasn’t perfect. But he loved us, Jason. A good dad does what he can, even if it’s not enough.”
Of course, despite some scary moments, the wolves don’t win. And by the time sanctuary is sighted, Sam, Ben and Jason have all put their lives on the line for each other and learned deep lessons about what it means to be a family and to sacrifice for one another.
At a critical moment, Jason’s future father-in-law sees Jason face off against those pesky wolves. Later, he says that Jason’s brave actions are a metaphor for what it means to be a good dad: “The father stands in the gap. Kids on one side, wolves on the other. Whatever happens, nothing gets to those kids. You didn’t have to win. You just have to stand there.”
Also in the realm of fatherly themes, Jason’s future father-in-law understands that Jason never had a dad of his own, and he reassures Jason, “I’ll be there to give you fatherly advice—whether you want it or not.”
All of the main characters are people of faith. We see Jason, especially, journaling. We also hear him praying, repeatedly, for God’s protection, guidance and mercy as he and his charges make their way across the snow-covered wilderness.
Jason has a pocketknife that was given to him as a gift by one of his foster families as a boy. It has the word “Beloved” etched on it, as well as the verse reference, Matthew 3:17.
Jason eventually explains the meaning of the verse to Ben and Sam: “‘This is my son, my beloved son,’” Jason says, quoting the verse. Then he adds that God said those words before Jesus had done anything. “And God said, ‘I love Him, because of who He is, not because of what he’s done.’” Jason then says that’s the kind of love he’s developed for Ben (and, it’s implied, for Sam, too).
The group’s troubles commence when they hit a flock of birds, which damages the plane’s engine. After a rough landing, Jason, Ben and Sam commence a four-day journey through the wilderness in which wolves pursue them. Some perilous night scenes, accompanied by threatening music, might be on the intense side for young or sensitive viewers.
An ATV crashes, sending three people flying.
[Spoiler Warning] The wolves eventually catch up to the group. Jason rigs a clever rockslide that crushes one of the animals beneath a boulder. He does hand-to-paw battle with a second, stabbing and wounding it badly while getting an arm chewed up in the process. Jason’s future father-in-law fortuitously shows up with a rifle that Jason uses to finish the wolf off. We see Jason’s bloodied and bandaged arm afterward.
We hear a couple exclamations of “Oh my gosh!” One indistinct utterance is perhaps a misuse of God’s name (“Oh my Gaaaah—”).
Twice, Ben takes Jason’s knife without permission. The first time is an innocent mistake, as it was (he thought) simply left behind in the plane. Jason loses his temper badly at that point, scaring the kids. The second time Ben takes the knife is an act of deliberate rebellion, one that lands the group in more peril than they would have otherwise faced.
Sam, as mentioned, is angrily, brutally blunt, making some nasty comments about Jason’s character, courage and motivation early in the film.
Why can’t Hollywood just make nice movies these days?
Pure Flix’s original story Legacy Peak is exactly that: a nice movie.
Sure, it’s intense in spots. Those wolves are definitely hungry, and perhaps potentially scary for little ones.
But other than that small caveat, there are no face-palm moments here for parents to navigate. No, “Well, it would have been great except for that one harsh profanity.” No, “Did that couple really need to spend the night together?” And no, “Man, can we just leave the political agendas out for once?”
Nope, none of that. Just pure, 1970s-style Disney-esque adventure. Old-fashioned, in the very best sense of that phrase. And a story with a nice dollop of healthy encouragement for struggling dads, too, which is nice to see.
I hope it’s a sign of more such innocent adventure to come from the streaming service Pure Flix in a world where mainstream Hollywood has largely forgotten how to make this kind of movie … and forgotten that there’s a huge family audience out there still hungry for movies like Legacy Peak.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.