Mosquito Coast [1986]

A year after his American film debut, Peter Weir reteamed with his Witness star (Harrison Ford) for a tricky adaptation of Paul Theroux's novel of a modern man who takes his family into the jungle. The results are mixed, but the film is galvanized by Ford's atypical performance as inventor/madman Allie Fox. Paul Schrader's script sets up Allie as a man who follows his idea: that America is dying and the real "four-in-the-morning courage" is found in returning to the essence of life, here the jungles of a fictional Central American country (it was shot in Belize). With his family in tow (including Helen Mirren and River Phoenix), Allie creates a utopia when his inventions create a local sensation, but seedier elements from bandits to evangelicals (led by Andre Gregory) take their toll. Certainly, it's hard to root for a central character who is unpleasant ("a know-it-all who is sometimes right," as one states), and the film's second half is not as interesting. But Weir's film is logical and true in its progression and, as usual, is beautifully crafted (he also reteams with the cinematographer, editor, and composer of Witness). Ford's rawness is reminiscent of many an actor's foray into the meaty role of an independent film--which this film is certainly not--and, unfortunately, it was not the direction he ultimately pursued. --Doug Thomas

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