According to Q, if you break down a narrative you will find at its heart seven essential conflicts: man against man, man against nature, man against himself, man against God, man against Society, man caught in the middle, and man and woman. Any one of these is more than enough grist for a storyteller’s mill, and has been the root for our most archetypal narratives.
Or you could go the other way and try to jam as much of that as you can into one plot, the way Joe Carnahan (The A-Team) has done in his modern Jack London-like adventure, The Grey.
John Ottway (Liam Neeson) is a master at going his own way and has done so for probably his entire life, as far as we can tell from the small snippets we get at it. A soldier, or possibly even a mercenary or terrorist (we’ll never know for sure), in his early life, in the loneliness of middle age he now finds himself a professional killer of a different stripe tasked with keeping wolves and other predators from attacking oil field workers in the frozen wasteland of northernmost Alaska. A place, in Ottway’s estimation, fit only for men who have discovered they can’t live in the civilized world. That’s an assumption which will be tested for him and a small group of oil workers who survive a plane crash and must make their way through the elements away from a pack of territorial wolves and back to safety.