The Edge

Film Review by Jeffrey Winters

I was happily surprised that David Mamet (House of Games, Glengarry Glen Ross), wrote The Edge. I associate his syncopated tap-dancing style cadence with urban films.

In many of Mamet’s films he strips a character to the core and puts him or her in conflict with another complex person. In The Edge, Mamet set two diametrically opposed men in the wilderness of Alaska.

On the surface this film is a fantastic and beautiful wilderness survival tale. It had a Disney quality about two men who must overcome starvation and freezing to death while learning how to survive.

As is often the case with Mamet, the subtext or underlying story is more elaborate and interesting. Therefore, the story is not just about two men trying to catch a fish or light a fire without matches. Their relationship deals with betrayal, male bonding and breaking free of one’s identity in order to discover a deeper layer of self.

Anthony Hopkins (Silence of The Lambs, Legends of the Fall), plays billionaire Charles Morris who is a “bookworm,” able to answer all types of quiz show questions. He is introspective with a keen perception which is not loud or demonstrative. In other words, he sees into people without letting them know how he observes their interior world.

The Edge begins with Hopkins flying his beautiful wife played by famous model Elle Macpherson as Mickey, to a rustic Alaskan wilderness lodge. Accompanying them is Alex Baldwin (Miami Blues, The Juror), as hip fashion photographer Bob Green. The other guests in the entourage all belong to Hopkins fashion business.

Running the lodge is famed veteran character actor L.Q. Jones who was last seen in Casino. He is best known for his frequent collaborations with the late director Sam Peckinpah. I mention him because his face had the grain of a fine wood carved animal.

On the wall in the lodge, Jones has a picture of his Native American buddy who lives north in the wilderness. This picture captures the imagination of Baldwin so he can have a “genuine,” photo shoot. He talks his assistant and Hopkins into renting a plane in pursuit of this mythical looking Indian.

They are flown in a single prop engine plane into the wilderness to find the “bear hunter.” The plane is hit by a flock of migrating geese which get sucked into the engine. The pilot dies and the three men plunge into a freezing lake. Hopkins dives back into the plane and rescues the photo assistant before swimming to the surface. When they reach land there is no radio, and they are surrounded by snow capped mountains and forests.

During the night a wild Kodiak bear played by Bart the Bear (Grizzly Adams, Legends of the Fall), attacks the men. Later when the bear stalks them, we watch a long and excellent choreographed bear fight. The large Kodiac bear is truly ferocious.

During their ordeal, both Hopkins and Baldwin transform. Baldwin’s raw emotions vacillate from hatred and greed to genuine sadness. Hopkins reminded me of a very centered martial arts teacher; his balance always intact.

Director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors), did an excellent job taking Mamet’s words and subtext by putting his cast in an environment (shot in the Rocky Mountain range in Alberta) which was exciting and authentic.

Hopkins was a soft and multifaceted counterpoint to Baldwins youth and rage.

The Edge is a very enjoyable film.