Today on ‘Friday’s Finest’ we feature another compelling yet underrated Peter Weir film about the mysteries and forces of nature. The Mosquito Coast has just 6.6 on IMDB and 76% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was also a commercial disappointment having lost money. It may well be the only Harrison Ford film that has flopped so badly. I revisited the film only recently and I was captivated by it, like I was in my youth. It currently sits at 67 in my all time favourite movies list.
The Mosquito Coast is based on the novel of the same name by Paul Theroux. The film tells the story of a family that leaves the United States and tries to find a happier and simpler life in the jungles of Central America. “Ice is civilization”, Allie fox proclaims with unctuous authority. That will be the foundation for his utopian dream.
“We eat when we’re not hungry, drink when we’re not thirsty. We buy what we don’t need and throw away everything that’s useful. Why sell a man what he wants? Sell him what he doesn’t need. Pretend he’s got eight legs and two stomachs and money to burn. It’s wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.”
– Allie Fox (Harrison Ford)
But Allie is so headstrong, so convinced of his infallibility that his vision blinds him to reality. Lets just say he is not prepared for the reality of nature nor the threat other desperate humans pose. His jungle paradise quickly turns into a dystopia as Allie’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic and aggressive.
Ford really goes out on a limb in this playing a character so egocentric and domineering; distinct from anything he’s done before, but nails it in my opinion. Then we have the iconic River Phoenix who was at the prime of his youth in terms of his innate acting sensibility; stealing nearly every scene he is in. According to IMDB, Ford and Phoenix had a very close bond in this film and Ford even recommended Phoenix to Spielberg for Indiana Jones based on their time together making this film.
Taking a very Robinson Crusoe-esquire piece of fiction and putting it to film would not have been an easy process. Beyond the deep themes expressed in the script, The Mosquito Coast looks good visually. The tropical scenery is spectacular. Production design and cinematography are terrific. And the film’s score, by Maurice Jarre, is wonderfully exotic and majestic.
Interesting facts about The Mosquito Coast from IMDB Trivia:
- Jack Nicholson was originally offered the lead role, but backed out partly because he could not watch Los Angeles Lakers games in Belize, where part of the film was to be shot.
- Of all of his films, star actor Harrison Ford considers this to be his favorite.
- River Phoenix was raised in the Children of God cult, where he and his family had been stationed in Venezuela. River was motivated to act in the movie because he recognized the many similarities between the film and his childhood.
- Actors Martha Plimpton and River Phoenix started a personal relationship on this movie which continued for a number of years.