The Edge (1997)
To Elle and back for Hopkins and Baldwin
Did you know that you can make fire from ice? - Charles
"The Edge" starring Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin is a smart movie, it draws you into the tale of survival in the wilderness where threats don't just come from the wild animals. It delivers drama, tension and action but strangely also some humour which dilutes the atmosphere that it seems to be striving to deliver. It feels like it has been written to be humorous yet directed to be serious and as such those witty moments of dialogue or irony end up jarring with the drama, giving it a lightness that you don't necessary expect.
Whilst accompanying his supermodel wife Mickey (Anthony Hopkins - Chaplin) on a photo shoot in the Alaskan wilderness, millionaire Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins - Chaplin) finds himself stranded in the wilderness with fashion photographer Robert Green (Alec Baldwin - The Juror) when their plane crashes. As Charles uses his theoretical knowledge of survival to try and navigate their way to safety he not only has to worry about wild animals but also fears that Robert is having an affair with his wife and wants to kill him.
There are a lot of things to like about "The Edge" and the main set up of a millionaire being stuck in the wilderness with a younger rival who he fears is not only having an affair with his wife but plans to kill him lays way for plenty of drama and tension. It's cleverly worked with millionaire Charles Morse not only trying to lead them to safety using his theoretical knowledge of survival but basically watching his back in case Robert plans to bump him off. It twists things around when Robert actually saves Charles's life and makes you wonder whether Charles is just being paranoid due to having such an attractive wife and if so where will things lead.
Alongside this there is also the survival aspect as Charles manages to use all his theoretical knowledge to good effect. It's sort of fascinating the gems of wisdom he comes up with such as the adhoc compass using a paperclip and leaf as well as when one of them ends up being injured that they need to bury the bloody rags to stop the scent wafting towards a killer bear. It's all surprisingly interesting and in a way is like watching a movie version of a Survival show, although I have no idea whether some of the stuff he comes up with is true survival techniques or just over the top ideas employed for dramatic effect.
All of this makes for quite a nice drama which does deliver a reasonable amount of tension and understandably being stuck in the wilderness with a killer bear also means there is plenty of action to accompany it. The scenes where the bear relentlessly hunts them down is packed full of intense moments full of action, but not the completely over the top action which can ruin things.
Whilst all this is good the fact there is also a streak of humour and irony threading it's way through "The Edge" leaves me sort of confused. Don't get me wrong, the witty dialogue and irony has the right effect of making you smile, even almost laugh, but it feels sort of out of place in a movie which seems to revel in the drama. It just makes me think that director Lee Tamahori had a different vision for the story than that which David Mamet wrote and it causes the movie to faulter at times where lightness encroaches when it isn't needed. In many ways it needed to be just one thing or another, a tense drama or a humorous drama not a blend of both.
Adding to the negatives it has to be said that the ending sucks and in trying to find a way to bring all this drama and action to a close it feels both too obvious and rushed. But hey how many movies ending up feeling exactly the same when trying to bring a movie to an end.
But what really stands out are the performances of Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin. Again Anthony Hopkins delivers such an interesting character in the shape of millionaire Charles Morse with his encyclopaedic survival knowledge. It's a captivating performance a little icy but with a human side which makes you instantly side with him but then also has the layer of almost paranoia as he wonders who his friends really are or whether they just want his money or his sexy younger wife. Baldwin, an often underrated actor, does a brilliant job of matching Hopkins delivering a character which you instantly mistrust from the start and immediately question his motives at every point even when he saves Morse's life. It's a good pairing and you get a sense that they both enjoyed working together because it shows in their performances.
Funnily what also makes me question whether "The Edge" was meant to be slightly humorous is the casting of Elle Macpherson as Morse's wife Mickey because she plays the role just a slight bit over the top, not a bad thing, but gives the moments featuring her a much lighter feel than the rest of the movie. The same can be said for the casting of Harold Perrineau as a friend of Roberts, he seems to be playing scenes not so much for laughs but to be lighter.
What this all boils down to is that "The Edge" is a very entertaining movie which manages to deliver just the right amount of drama, tension and action. But then with the witty dialogue and sense of irony sorts of spoil things, not to the extent that it makes it a terrible movie but one which at times feels a little bit confused to what it wants to be.
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