I'm familiar with the thriller genre, and I never have much in the way of performance expectations when I watch them, but with River Wild it was like "wow, I guess that's what happens when you stack top-teir actors in mid-teir movies". And now that sets the bar. I'll no longer settle for less.
Kept thinking of this statement. Here is a list of recent action films where someone was nominated for an acting Oscar.
The Dark Knight
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
The Last Samurai
Saving Private Ryan
In the Line of Fire
Do any of these stand out to you as particular examples that prove or go against your point? I'd say it's a good collection of films that don't rely on the performances but certainly benefit from them.
The Fugitive is such a good example it might be THE example.
The plot is pure airport/bestseller-list pulp... not prestigious literary material, just cheap, engrossing, thrilling, page-turning fiction with really basic ingredients. The others are using high-end ingredients, like established brands, historically significant characters, true-ish events, etc.
But someone came along and had the gall to take it really seriously even though maybe it didn't deserve it. It's like the guy literally only had one script to work with and by god he was going to make the most of it.
The River Wild (1994)[/center]
Great review, great description of the movie, great notes!
* * * SPOILERS AHEAD * * *
As I remembered, the script could've used more inspiration, with most of the surprises obvious to the viewer while the cast remains frustratingly clueless. Case in point, the third bad guy who's trying to not appear injured. The general trail of suspicious behavior is more obvious than the cave demons in The Descent. It's out of touch Dad who has to try and wake up Gail to the bad vibe these guys give off
The "oblivious to the obvious" criticism is definitely valid here at times. Things dawn on the characters much later than they dawn on us, and the movie doesn't really try and throw you off the scent at any point either iirc.
There's one line that clangs to me. I think Streep probably went through this with a strong B.S. Detector. She wasn't going to just do an action movie to broaden her appeal. This was going to be smarter, raising the genre to her level. One line though slipped through. Overall, Ranger Johnny's last scene is good. You can see Streep trying to save the guys life and I like how easily Bacon jumps in that it's not going to work. Not with this boy scout. Then comes the line. Wade shoots Johnny and says, "He said he always wanted to try The Gauntlet. I just gave him his wish." It's so glib, it strips Wade of his humanity for a one-liner more suited for a meathead action film. This is followed by Streep and Bacon reaction shots that follow the playbook instead of the characters they had created.
Oh interesting reaction! I don't recall feeling like it was out of character myself... just a development that left me thinking "I knew you were a bastard, but now I know you're an evil bastard". Isn't it a good yell at your screen moment?
Give it the eye-roll, and the I know this is a movie so I can laugh at how f'd up that is
Anyways, I enjoyed reading your reaction to that. Very amusing.
There are two main skills with editing: action scenes and finding the character in the performance. This film asks for both and the team of David Brenner and Joe Hutshing deliver. The dialogue scenes show a great selection of inspired acting moments, while the rapids and encounters with Ranger Johnny achieve a Hitchcockian suspense at times. (That gun in the water.) Also, as someone who works in production I know it wasn't easy to put together the Gauntlet sequence. We see the actors a lot and never once could I tell we were watching stunt doubles.
I hope people are taking notice, you used the H word. I don't count myself a big fan so it wouldn't mean much if I said it.
My biggest takeaway from Streep here is in her performance we can see Gail decades earlier. This is a reckless college student who survived The Gauntlet. Someone wild who met a nice, stable guy at the right time and became a responsible mother. There's still a bit of the outdoorsman in her, but it's buried down deep now because she loves her family. You put Michelle Yeoh in there and I don't have to think hard to imagine the active past. I'd seen it. This is completely new territory for Streep, but never for a moment do I doubt the character's physically active past.
It's fun to see that joyfulness come out of her eh.... you really get a self of that "younger self" in those moments. Like when they pass the point of no return and being their gauntlet run and Bacon falls in the water and comes out looking like a drown rat, Streep can't contain herself.
smirnoff, you mentioned the boiling over/pleading I used for the screenshot. It is a great moment. Let's talk about the gun finale. This is where the script hits new action notes.We all know this scenario. The hero gets the gun, the bad guy says "you're not going to shoot me" and then BAM!, justice is served. It's a sure fire movie moment. Because of the cast, this film can do something much more complex. It's obvious from the moment Streep holds the gun that she is not comfortable. The odds of her firing are very low. Wade (Kevin Bacon) doesn't just taunt her. He speaks to her psychology. This is a woman who will be haunted forever, wondering if she had to pull the trigger. He's got her all figured out and we know he's right. The dialogue is written for the characters, not the moment.
It's a tough sell for a movie to really have the audience thinking anything but "just shoot him". Do you think it manages it?