Driven by concern for rapidly dwindling lion populations, this evocative National Geographic production proves to be both an inquisitive nature documentary and an activist call to arms. Narrated by Jeremy Irons with Werner Herzog--style floridness, the film recounts the story of a Botswana big cat dubbed Ma di Tau ("Mother of Lions") who, after her mate is killed by an invading pride, flees to river-protected Duba Island; there, she strives to shelter her three young cubs from wildfires, fellow predators and a buffalo herd. It's a nonfiction depiction of "the eternal dance of Africa," in which survival is the sole motivation, and life and death hang in constant balance.
Overflowing with super-slow motion, color filters and the clunkiest of flashbacks, The Last Lions frequently amplifies the melodrama to borderline-excessive proportions. Similarly, the anthropomorphizing of its feral subjects regularly threatens to topple into overcooked mythmaking, especially during the numerous scenes of cute cubs frolicking with, and being lovingly cared for by, their mother. Nonetheless, the film's frank, sober confrontation of the wild's kill-or-be-killed brutality and omnipresent sense of loss---encapsulated by the sight of a regal cat succumbing to mortal injuries---is an often bracing rejoinder to the subject's usual circle-of-life jungle platitudes.
Watch the trailer