Jack (Ethan Hawke) came to the Yukon in 1898 to mine his dad's claim in the great Gold Rush. He meets a couple of prospectors, Alex (Klaus Maria Brandauer) and Skunker (Seymour Cassel), and they travel together by dogsled into the wilderness of the Arctic winter. Their ventures are interwoven with the early days of White Fang, a wolf with some dog blood, whose mother is killed when he is a pup. White Fang gets caught in a trap by Indians, then gets traded to men who use him for dogfights, and finally belongs to Jack, who takes him along when he goes to live at the claim.
"White Fang", however, is superior entertainment on its own terms, a story of courage and subsistence at a time when men surged into the Yukon imagining treasures and found mostly disease and death.
The movie is stunningly photographed on location. The performances are real and understated, and Alex makes a convincing expert prospector, partly hardened, part dreamer. As the boy, Jack is properly naive at the start and properly experienced at the end, although it's all he can do to carry off the final joyous reunion with the dog. And the dog itself (played by Jed) is a good-looking, smart animal so good at showing its fangs that I really believed it could scare off a bear.
A movie like this is an adventure, it's exciting, it stirs the imagination, and there are scenes of great suspense - as when Jack finds himself out on thin ice or gets backed into a corner by the bear.