Director: Lee Tamahori
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, Elle Macpherson, Harold Perrineau, Bart the Bear
Released: September 26, 1997
I've recently realized how much I love survival stories. I don't care if they're based on a true story or fictional (though being based on a true story makes them more interesting). I recently finished reading "Lost in Shangri-La" by Mitchell Zuckoff, a true story about three people who survived a plane crash in the jungles of New Guinea in 1945. One of my favorite books is "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer about an expedition to Mount Everest gone wrong. I both saw the movie and listened to the audio book of 127 Hours. The Grey was one of my favorite movies of this past year. I also am obsessed with the reality show Survivor! Okay, it's not exactly the same thing as those people are never in any real peril, but I still love it. Survival stories, I do love!
Charles Morse (Hopkins) is a billionaire bibliophile who's married to a model half his age (Macpherson). She has invited him to join her on location in Alaska for a photo shoot. Charles suspects there is something going on between her and the photographer, Bob (Baldwin) because he is always flirting with her and she doesn't seem to mind it. Bob is determined to photograph some real natives and when the owner of the lodge they're staying at tells him about a friend and where to find him, he takes the opportunity to go there. Along with his assistant and the pilot, Charles also joins them after Bob invites him. While in the tiny plane (and those things are never good - whenever you hear about a crash, it's always a tiny plane!), a flock of birds fly right into them and into the windshield causing the plane to go down and crash in a large lake in the middle of the wilderness. The pilot is dead, but the other three manage to get out. There's a shot of a rifle laying on the seat as they are escaping from the plane and I thought this was important, but no, we never see it again. I guess they were just showing us that they would not have a rifle with them.
Bob's assistant is played by Harold Perrineau who is best known for playing Michael (father of Walt, owner of Vincent) on Lost. So Lost is not the first time he played a character who crashed in the middle of nowhere and had to survive in the wilderness! Unlike Michael (he survived in Lost, right?), Perrineau's character in The Edge is not so lucky. First, he stabs himself in the leg and hits an artery when he's making a spear for them to catch fish. Then he gets mauled by a bear! (Because some idiot left his bloody pants hanging out and the bear could smell the scent of the blood.) The shot of the bear ripping him apart is a bit humorous because it's pretty obvious the bear is throwing a dummy around. They probably had fried chicken pieces on the dummy!
That wasn't the first time they had contact with the bear. While hiking in one big circle to see if they could find a way out, the three of them heard the bear and it started chasing them. In a scene similar to The Grey, they're trying to get across a gorge and lift a heavy tree that was already fallen to act as a bridge. Charles is the last to cross the shaky bridge (there's rocks and rushing waterfall below them) and while on the middle of the "bridge" (and they were walking really slowly to get across - I would have gotten on my butt and scooted across!), the bear starts shaking the tree and Charles falls off, but the strap of his knapsack catches a branch and he's holding on to his bag. Um, I'm sorry, but there's no way that bag could have held his weight...that would have snapped in a second! But he manages to hold on for quite awhile. The other two are trying to help him, but he does fall into the water. From one angle, he looks pretty high up, but when we see him falling into the water, it only looks like he's fallen two feet!
I don't know if this was in the script or if it was something Alec Baldwin did to ad-lib, but everytime he talks to Anthony Hopkin's character, he always says his name in the sentence. Like: "What do you think we should do, Charles?" "What are you doing, Charles?" "Charles, are you okay?" "Charles! Where are you going?" It was so annoying! But at least I didn't forget his name!
After the bear shows up for the third time, Charles realizes it's a man-eater and is stalking them. He and Bob create a ring of fire around them to keep the bear out and are discussing how they can kill it. This is where I thought the gun was going to come in...I thought one of them would remember there was a gun in the plane and have to dive down to get it, but nope. They set up a trap to lure the bear and Charles has created a spear out of a long branch which he kills the bear with. The bear has a ferocious roar, but when Charles has the stick in front of him, the bear is just sorta lazily following him around, like he's supposed to do. I'm guessing a non-actor bear would charge at him and rip him to shreds.
The bear is played by Bart the Bear and I love how in the end credits and on the movie's IMDb page, he is listed fourth or fifth. I've never seen an animal credited among the actors (and given his own title card to boot). Bart the Bear must have had one heck of a manager! (He died in 2000 at the age of 23). Of course, he was a big Hollywood (animal) star. He was also in The Bear (I'm assuming he played the titular character!), Legends of the Fall, and The Great Outdoors. The Edge was one of his last starring roles. I guess even bears have to retire! On his IMDb page (yes, he even has his own IMDb page), there are some hilarious message board posts like how he was always typecast. (A bear being typecast?!?! I laughed so hard when I saw that!)
Once the bear is dead, that doesn't mean Charles and Bob are "out of the woods yet", no pun intended (okay, maybe a little!) While in the plane, right before the crash, Charles asks Bob how he plans to kill him. The conversation is brought up again while hiking in the woods and Charles confesses he thinks Bob is having an affair with his wife. Bob laughs it off, but later, after they've killed the bar, they find an abandoned house and Charles, who recently received an engraved watch from his wife, finds out that Bob also received an engraved watch with a message alluding to an affair from his wife. Bob knows that Charles is on to him and with a rifle found in the house, he is about to shoot Charles, but ends up falling in a bear trap. Charles could have easily killed him at this point, but instead helps him out and takes care of his wounds. With a canoe outside the house they row down the river for awhile until Charles sees a helicopter and successfully gets its attention. By this time Bob has died from his injuries. Back at the lodge there are many reporters wanting to know what happened while he was out there and what happened to the other two men which Charles replies with, "They died saving my life." Fade to black.
Even though I had a few minor complaints about how fake things sometimes looked, it was a good movie and I would recommend it. (But then again, I do love my survival stories!) What shocked me the most was that David Mamet wrote the script. It just seems so different from somebody who wrote State and Main and Wag the Dog. It's like when I found out that Ian McEwan, author of "Atonement" wrote the script for The Good Son.
Bart the Bear should be proud of his final performance!