The Edge [Blu-Ray]
Director : Lee Tamahori
Screenplay : David Mamet
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 1997
Stars : Anthony Hopkins (Charles Morse), Alec Baldwin (Robert Green), Harold Perrineau Jr. (Stephen), Elle Macpherson (Mickey Morse), L.Q. Jones (Styles), Kathleen Wilhoite (Ginny), David Lindstedt (James)
David Mamet has written so many plays and movies about men struggling to survive against their environment and each other that it was only a matter of time before he finally set one of his stories in the wilderness. Previously, all of his characters had displayed their predatory natures within the confines of city dwelling, whether they be sexual predators (Sexual Perversity in Chicago), economic predators (Glengarry Glen Ross), racial predators (Homicide), and even wrongfully accused predators (Oleanna).
With The Edge, directed by Lee Tamahori, Mamet takes two archetypes of male power and dumps them in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, where they must fight the elements and, eventually, each other to survive. The two men are Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins), an older, introverted, but highly intellectual billionaire, and Bob Green (Alec Baldwin), a rowdy fashion photographer who might have his eye on Morse’s wife, a supermodel named Mickey (played by supermodel Elle MacPherson). While on a fashion shoot in Alaska, a plane carrying Charles, Bob, and Bob’s assistant Stephen (Harold Perrineau Jr.) crashes deep in the frozen wild. The pilot dies, and it is up to the three men to use their wits to get home alive.
“Do you know why most men die in the wilderness?” Charles asks. “They die of shame. They die because they didn’t do the one thing that could have saved their lives: thinking.” Luckily, Charles is very good at thinking. He has a photographic memory and reads anything he can get his hands on (when you’re a billionaire, I guess you can get your hands on lots of books). In fact, he was conveniently reading Lost in the Wilderness before the plane went down, and although the book was lost in the crash, its information is still stored in his vast gray matter. Therefore, he knows how to make a compass out of paper clip, build a squirrel trap, fish with a thread and a piece of gold chain, and various other survival techniques that few people would know.
Unlike most action films, The Edge succeeds at being simultaneously cerebral and primal, which is neatly encapsulated in the battle of wills between Charles and Bob. The harsh wilderness--both beautiful and terrible--becomes a vast externalization of their internal conflict, specifically in the form of a man-eating Kodiak bear that spends a great portion of the film stalking the men. While their primal urges for survival force them to work together and rely on each other (Bob needs Charles’s intellect and knowledge, while Charles needs Bob’s younger man’s strength), the tensions between them--two alpha males of distinctly different orders vying for superiority--are always seething underneath (a Mamet specialty). Every once in a while, it surfaces briefly in a conversation, but most of the time it remains in glances, reactions, and body language, which Hopkins and Baldwin deploy with subtle effectiveness.
While The Edge is certainly not the best script Mamet has ever written, and oftentimes it feels lacking in the dialogue, which is usually his strongpoint, it allows him to have a certain amount of fun with the action genre, as it is often apparent that he is working with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. The development of the story is meticulous and straightforward; Mamet sets everything up in the first half hour, meaning that every piece of dialogue and every prop somehow gains importance as the film goes on. A brief mention about how bears acquire a taste for human flesh once they’ve had it … a knife Bob gives Charles on his birthday the night before they crash … a new watch Bob is wearing--all these things and many others are somehow important to the plot later on.
Hopkins and Baldwin are both effective in their roles, especially Hopkins, who specializes in playing intellectuals. Whether he’s portraying C. S. Lewis or Hannibal Lecter, he is one of the few actors who can consistently radiate knowledge, patience, and understanding. Baldwin, who was so vicious in a bit part in James Foley’s film version of Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), plays Bob as a conflicted man, one who wants to assert himself, but often does not have the power and resents it. Both men have grown soft living rich city lives, but it is only Charles through his knowledge who is allowed to “bloom” in the wilderness, as Bob puts it.
Tamahori, a New Zealand-born director who first rose to prominence with his brutal homegrown domestic violence drama Once Were Warriors (1994) before being co-opted by Hollywood for various action movies (including 2002’s silly James Bond entry Die Another Die), works well with the versatile cinematographer Donald McAlpine (who has shot everything from Mrs. Doubtfire to Moulin Rouge!) to evoke both the beauty and the horrors of the Alaskan wilderness. The film is filled with postcard-worthy shots of vast snow-topped peaks, sprawling forests, and idyllic rivers and lakes, many of which are used as a set-up to dissolve into something horrifying. Mamet’s script and McAlpine’s photography constantly juxtapose the conflicting aspects of nature and, not coincidentally, humankind: That which is beautiful can also lead to a slow, agonizing death.
|The Edge Blu-Ray|
|Subtitles||English, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean|
|Supplements||Original theatrical trailer|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||May 11, 2010|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|The 1080p high-definition image on this Blu-Ray looks good, but not as great as you might expect. This may be because it is encoded in MPEG-2 on a single-layer 25GB disc, which limits the bitrate (the average is only 18 Mbps). The image is clear and clean, with some finely wrought detail, although there are a few compression artifacts during some of the more hectic action sequences. Colors look excellent throughout, with the icy blues and grays emphasizing the film’s physical and emotional chills. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround soundtrack leaves little to be desired, with great depth and sonic detail and plenty of action in the surround channels to immerse you in the violence, particularly when ol’ Bart the Bear is creeping around the edges of the frame.|
|The only supplement is the original theatrical trailer presented in HD.|
Copyright ©2010 James Kendrick
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All images copyright © 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment