The Mosquito Coast (Weir, 1986)

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If anything, Peter Weir’s uneven but ambitious film The Mosquito Coast offers a glaring reminder of how good an actor Harrison Ford can be. No doubt that in the past decade Ford’s star has fallen to almost inconsequential status, a shame considering he was once a rare movie star who could lose himself in great character roles. As Allie Fox, a brilliant but misguided inventor who shuns mainstream American life and takes his family to live in the jungle, Ford brings a combination of manic charm and subtle unease to a character on the brink of self-destruction. Allie relishes in his own genius and can’t imagine why anyone else would listen to dissenting opinions, a tragic flaw that reveals the insecurities and manias brimming beneath his dashing good looks and eccentric charisma. It’s a complete performance ranging from distilled moments of reflection to brutal outburst aimed at those who love Allie the most; his dedicated family. The final scene resonates with a calm sense of dread and regret for both Allie and his oldest son played to perfection by a young River Phoenix, a moment drenched in sadness toward what could have been. The film itself becomes consumed by Ford’s performance and offers little else in terms of dynamic narrative threads, however this one man show contains enough scene chewing for multiple films and offers a surprising counterbalance to Ford’s other great performance of the 1980’s in Witness, not surprisingly another Peter Weir film.

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