To understand David Mamet is to listen to David Mamet. More than any other modern day playwright working today, David Mamet's signature of extremely vicious, repetitive and rapidly paced dialogue -- which cannot be imitated or duplicated -- is instantly recognizable.
Yet when he's working as a screenwriter in the realm of cinema that he doesn't direct himself, he has an amazing ability to retain his ardent belief of “Keep It Simple, Stupid” -- the KISS method – and translate it for the “show me” medium of film.
While there's enough of the old rat-a-tat in another 1997 Mamet penned script for Wag the Dog to make it unmistakably his, it's a particularly curious find to track down the taut thriller The Edge.
Par for the course, however, it begins with the same male camaraderie and rivalry as billionaire Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins) fears that his fashion model wife is involved with photographer Bob (Alec Baldwin) while they're on location for an Alaska shoot.
Yet, the traditionally Mamet style pissing contest soon gives way to man vs. nature far more than man vs. man when their small plane crash lands and Charles and Bob find they must rely on one another in the unforgiving, freezing wilderness to somehow walk out of those woods alive.
Under these circumstances, the dialogue is heightened to speaking out of necessity, making plans, setting bear traps, and trying to figure out just what exactly to do if they don't get rescued. And although they speak a great deal as their none-too-convincing friendship becomes a matter of life and death, the wonderful thing about The Edge is that – much like his script for The Untouchables -- Mamet relishes in revealing information in the most ingenious of ways.
Right down to receiving items he will need for his adventure on his birthday at the start of the movie to certain looks or revelations about the main ensemble cast that will pay off later as Hopkins' eccentric Charles is a walking trivia buff filled with valuable encyclopedic knowledge for which he doesn't often have the opportunity to use until he has to do so.
With the triumphant refrain of “what one man can do, another can do,” Charles is the only level-headed man in the ensemble, even though he realizes that Bob may only be willing to assist him in looking for a way out until he can make it back on his own.
Developing the bonds of trust and then breaking them with interesting reveals, slips-of-the-tongue or visual cues that prove contrary to something we'd just thought, filmmaker Lee Tamohori ensures his audience is completely consumed by the events with one major action sequence after another.
While it does suffer a few times from gaps in logic, everything is wound so tightly that we're willing to overlook the tiny cracks in the ice since they never expand beyond that to sink the plot in this impressively transferred Blu-ray disc.
Given the fact that through most of the film, the men are battling to stay alive against a man-eating Kodiak bear, you'll probably jump quite a few feet with the loud roars pouring out of various speakers at once. And although the print wasn't quite as vivid or sharp in color-definition as some of Fox's other superlative releases, it gets the job done in making you feel like you're part of the adventure, trying to figure the men out at the exact same time that they're trying to do the same.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
Labels: Blu-ray Review