Into the Woods
Think of it as the Eddie Bauer Survival Adventure: all inclusive, airfare and air crash included, all the bear meat and snow you can eat. Or consider The Edge a big episode of MacGyver as envisioned by screenwriter David Mamet.
Charles Morse, billionaire (Anthony Hopkins), accompanies his gorgeous wife Mickey (Elle MacPherson), a model, on a photo shoot to Alaska, with photographer Bob (Alec Baldwin) and a whole coterie of lackeys. In a rustic lodge in the middle of nowhere, they all settle in for a few days’ work. But Bob decides he needs a real native Eskimo to add authenticity to his photographs, and he flies off in a little single engine plane to hunt one down. Charles decides to tag along.
Naturally, the plane crashes at the end of nowhere, sinking into an icy river, taking the pilot with it. Charles and Bob swim to safety, dragging lackey Steve (Harold Perrineau) to shore. Poor Steve — you just know he’s not gonna make it home.
Conveniently, “Charles knows everything,” says Mickey — her husband has a head for trivia that would make MacGyver proud. Charles can make a compass from a paper clip, a squirrel trap from twigs, and fire from ice. Charles knows — or thinks he knows — something else, too: Bob is after his beautiful young wife and all the money she’d be heir to if Charles were to kick the bucket out there in the woods.
“Alrighty,” I thought at this point, rubbing my hands together with glee. “We are in for some glorious, macho dick measuring.” Eagerly I awaited the deep insight that Mamet would present the audience with as these men fought not only for survival but for the ultimate prize: a woman. Surely, I imagined, Mamet — a writer renowned for exposing the manly point of view — would offer us a new perspective on the whole chest-thumping, antler-bashing thing.
But The Edge is probably the least talky Mamet ever. Here I was, all set for a lot of yelling and fisticuffs and peeing in the snow (figuratively speaking) — and there is some of that — but The Edge is mostly a lot of scenes of our heroes walking through pretty scenery. And worse, we’re subjected to some sappy male bonding as Charles and Bob fail to turn against each other — temporarily, of course — but instead fight a man-killing bear (Bart the Bear).
I mean, Mr. Mamet, I was hoping for some exploration of one of the great mysteries of life: Why are men surprised that women see only men’s money (or lack thereof) when men see only women’s beauty (or lack thereof)?
To be sure, there are some nice touches. Mickey’s name isn’t uttered once until a full 45 minutes have passed since the opening credits — and after that it is only spoken maybe once or twice more. She’s always “your wife” and “my wife” — a mere possession. An appropriate misogynist effect.
And Bob — who accuses Charles of homosexual tendencies — seems to be demonstrating some himself. Here are two handsome guys alone in the woods (nudge nudge), and every five minutes Bob says — and he might as well have his clasped hands alongside his face in true ingenue style — “What are we gonna do, Charles?” Bob also affects the fey, limp-wristed thing too well. As you may suspect, he does not triumph in this manly battle. Only the genuinely manly can be victorious here.
Still, The Edge, directed by Lee Tamahori, is beautifully photographed. And man, that is one talented bear.