The more customary theme of man vs. nature takes a backseat to man’s internal moral conflict with himself, here manifested in the long-running antagonistic relationship between those who illegally poach the Tibetan antelope and the volunteer citizens of the Kekexili region who regularly risk their lives in an effort to protect the endangered animals. Largely inspired by real events of the 1990’s, the National Geographic-produced film presents its events as unfolding realities, the location shootings and unflourished camerawork suggesting no overt morality plays or intended fables. Many lingering shots posit the lone humans against the depth of the unforgiving wilderness, much like the underrated Wolf Creek
(but without the blisteringly hellish overtones of impending doom); Mountain Patrol
’s sense of natural fear grows steadily out of its unglamorous approach to the material. The team of protectors, dubbed the Mountain Patrol, are a ragtag team who sacrifice happiness to do what needs to be done, often without adequate funding or equipment, and even more so at the expense of their own safety. Despite some moments of horrific mortal terror (made all the more effective by the straightforward presentation), Mountain Patrol
’s most permeating quality is one of human perspective, establishing its human players, both “good” and “bad,” as significant beings even despite their relative role as but dust in the wind. Ultimately, the film is an ode to the great sacrifices that often accompany the will to do the right thing.