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Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Retro Review: The Mosquito Coast (1986)

The Mosquito Coast
Cast: Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, River Phoenix, Conrad Roberts, Andre Gregory, Jason Alexander
Genre: Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $14 million 

Plot: An inventor spurns his city life to move his family into the jungles of Central America to make a utopia

'This Mosquito Doesn't Bite, But Nor Does It, Sting'

Allie Fox is an inventor who specialises in innovative fridge devices, and he is convinced that the United States is heading for catastrophe; with that idea looming, Fox packs his bags and convinces his family, his wife ''Mother'', teenage son, Charlie and three other children to quit America for a new life in South America. As they head off to Belize, Allie has plans to build a new society from scratch and with that, he acts and behaves strangely and his descent to madness threatens to hurt the ones he loves, as he goes on to confront the Reverend. 

A huge departure for Harrison Ford: an actor synonymous with Star Wars as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, but for the exception of The Fugitive, he has arguably, never really been as progressive as an actor given his choice of roles and films he aligns himself with, as one would come to expect, from a performer as well-known as himself. 1986's The Mosquito Coast was one of his rarest and fewest glimpses and attempts at not so much shelving the 'hero' role, but in demonstrating that Ford was indeed capable of showing potential as a dramatic actor. 

Which Ford does well in, as he acquits himself in such a complex role, and one where the audience doesn't have much sympathy towards Allie; sadly, the same isn't said for the actual movie, wherein its almost 2-hr run-time is bogged down by what is a grating and drawn-out narrative and an almost total lack of drama and genuine hostility being generated, although the tension between Allie Fox, his wife, played by Helen Mirren, and son by the late River Phoenix, though whilst this wasn't lacking, this should have been far more potent and consistent throughout. 

The pacing of this film utterly drags it down, although given it takes a long while for the characters to recognise that Allie's ego has become way too big, this in itself prolongs the story's agony further, but without much that is revered. Harrison Ford's Allie Fox is a terrible person who lacks any empathy, whatsoever, especially for a so-called protagonist, who is really an anti-hero, and he is a total douche for the entirety of the flick, ranting and raving his way, which will irritate a lot of people who will watch this. & what's with Helen Mirren's character being called 'Mother'? Like, why give that character that name? Then again, there is no character progression or development, whatsoever as Allie, Mother and Charlie barely evolve and with that, towards the end, it feels as if they are the same people as they were and are, right before the problems began. 

And despite Peter Weir's efforts and Ford's performance, which is probably the best I have seen of his by far, as he goes down a darker route - thus displaying a range of acting that is unheard of from him -, the film itself, through Weir, just doesn't have enough tools to pull it off, as he works within such a confined and hectic jungle environment - and still, he doesn't go far and beyond to truly impress. This felt like a film that is okay at best, though it just practically sits there, without making too much noise and hot air; it most certainly should have been way, way better.  

Final Verdict: 

The Mosquito Coast is a film that would have won plaudits by many, not just critics, but, and ultimately, the execution is just way off.  In the capable hands of a much more accomplished and established director, other than Peter Weir, whose vision is anything but alluring and even bolder, quite frankly, the end result would have been even more sophisticated and thus, boosted with plenty of energy.

Yet despite Harrison Ford, try as he may, even with him as the star man alone, it was just not enough to ignite the spark that The Mosquito Coast truly needed as a film and one that would be talked about for decades.  


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