Hollywood in Toto

‘Mosquito Coast’ Gave Harrison Ford, and His Fans, the Ultimate Challenge

Harrison Ford’s character in “The Mosquito Coast” is a genius, a top quality he goes out of his manner to make sure everybody round him is aware of.

Ford’s Allie Fox is a tireless inventor who has by no means obtained the popularity and respect he feels he deserves. He passive aggressively butts heads with anybody who disagrees with him or doesn’t acknowledge his accomplishments.

After one more demonstration of his newest invention goes bust, Fox randomly decides to maneuver his total household from their American dwelling into the jungles of Honduras, the place he buys a city and units up a personal neighborhood.

Being within the jungle doesn’t simply give Fox the time and focus to create but it surely unleashes all of the potential for human distress inside him.

“The Mosquito Coast,” Peter Weir’s 1986 jungle journey, suggestions its hat within the course of John Huston and Werner Herzog and avoids any viewers hand holding. What Weir and Ford got here up with may solely have been made with their attachment, as that is as anti-Hollywood formulation as they arrive in 1986.

Leveraging their field workplace and Oscar success of “Witness,” their Paul Theroux adaptation is unusual, uncompromised and riveting.

Rich in imaginative and prescient and concepts, however so anti-mainstream, you’ll be able to’t assist however admire how all concerned managed to trick Warner Bros. into making a big-budget artwork film. A metaphor for colonialism, American entitlement (sarcastically, as Fox is consistently mocking All-American values) and the height of male hubris, “The Mosquito Coast” isn’t “enjoyable” and it actually isn’t refined, both.

Theroux’s 1981 novel on which that is based mostly adapts the “Heart of Darkness” template and contrasts a person of science and a person of religion creating contrasting societies within the jungle, which permits for his or her good intentions and worst impulses to return to gentle.

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It ought to come to nobody’s shock that this one flopped in theaters, with solely a handful of movie critics recognizing its achievements. The movie’s financial failure is an afterthought, as that is one among Weir’s strongest American movies.

RELATED: Why Peter Weir’s ‘Witness’ Remains a Movie Miracle

Ford is unbelievable right here, taking part in an unbearable egghead who bulldozes his manner by means of life. It’s jaw dropping to see Ford play the antithesis of each character he’s performed earlier than and since. Watching this icon embody a excessive IQ’d monster is an extra reminder that the best film star of my technology is, at first, a gifted actor.

Fox is just like the darkish aspect of Indiana Jones, as Fox is good however has no empathy. He presents with a you’re-either-with-me-or-against-me perspective in direction of everybody he encounters.

There’s a second the place Fox holds a hammer to his aspect and Weir positions his digital camera from the hip — the shot seems to be a sly reference to the well-known sword combat/ gunshot second from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

There’s additionally a fast pan from Fox to a cluster of indigenous faces him, which additionally brings to thoughts the second Dr. Jones outran an enormous boulder and located himself surrounded by an offended tribe. Perhaps Fox is Dr. Jones as a up to date creep, devoid of compassion, sacrificing all the things to show his value and vocalizing an ongoing disdain with modern-day America.

Has the actor ever performed a “villain” earlier than? Yes, however his flawed husband in “What Lies Beneath” had a seductive exterior.

Here, Fox is difficult to love from the beginning.

FAST FACT: “The Mosquito Coast” earned an anemic $14 million on the U.S. field workplace in 1986. Compare that to “Witness,” with the identical director-actor mixture which generated $68 million a yr prior. The latter additionally earned eight Oscar nominations, profitable for Best Editing and Best Original Screenplay.

It’s a daring, downright radical concept to place Ford, the embodiment of the up to date film hero, on this function. Better nonetheless, Ford goes all-in, protecting us each fascinated and disgusted with the person he’s taking part in.

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As Fox’s oldest son, River Phoenix is great right here. He brilliantly performed Ford’s Dr. Jones as a younger man on the prime of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Phoenix clearly watched his well-known “Mosquito Coast” co-star rigorously and wound up not giving a mere impersonation of Ford as Jones however a real characterization utilizing his vocal cues.

“The Mosquito Coast” is one among many movies that showcase what a pure and fascinating actor Phoenix was.

Helen Mirren brings humanity to the unplayable function of Fox’s spouse, whose belief and willingness to observe her husband on no matter scheme he concocts made me ponder whether or not she’s a idiot or simply numb to his consistently failing to ship on his guarantees.

Martha Plimpton steals her two scenes as a wild teen who entices Phoenix’s harmless daddy’s boy, and Andre Gregory is terrific taking part in a person who’s both Fox’s precise reverse…or not.

Watching “The Mosquito Coast” at the moment isn’t all that totally different from seeing it in 1986. Either you discover Allie Fox a transfixing determine and keep your gaze whilst he descends into his private hell, otherwise you try early and surprise why Ford would trouble embodying such a jerk within the first place.

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Weir’s persistence for story and environment constructing are right here, however his unceasing fixation on such an disagreeable protagonist (or is it antagonist?) units this aside from most of his different works. Perhaps Weir’s “Fearless” (1993) is the one different instance the place the casting is sufficient to attract an viewers into troublesome materials.

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Theroux’s story, within the fingers of screenwriter Paul Schrader’s cinematic rendering of it, is episodic and heavy-handed. At one level, Fox sits along with his household over the dinner desk and declares, “Our first Thanksgiving within the new world.”

It’s not the one on-the-nose line, nor the only real second that’s delivered with out an oz of subtlety.

“The Mosquito Coast” impresses with its steadfast refusal to compromise the sting of its message and portrait of a person’s final self-destruction.

News that Justin Theroux (Paul’s nephew) is taking part in Fox in an upcoming Apple Plus miniseries adaptation is encouraging; this isn’t a narrative that works solely within the ’80s. In truth, Weir’s movie, launched through the yr of “Top Gun,” was forward of its time, with its depiction of off-the-grid radicals in search of greatness outdoors the privileges of American life.

While “The Mosquito Coast” lacks the consistency and quiet poetry of “Witness,” it’s a a lot harder work that goes in rewarding and adventurous instructions. Ford not often took dangers like this once more, which is a disgrace. His follow-up movies, Roman Polanski’s “Frantic” and Mike Nichols’ “Working Girl” have been stretches however in automobiles that have been safer and tapped into his pure charisma.

It wouldn’t be till “42” that we’d see Ford tackle a personality function once more.

Fans of Weir and Ford have to see “The Mosquito Coast,” a necessary and stunning collaboration.

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