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Allie Fox (Harrison Ford) is an eccentric American inventor who thinks America is on the brink of extinction. He's also a tough-love father to two boys (River Phoenix, Jadrien Steele), twin daughters (Hilary and Rebecca Gordon) and husband to a wife (Helen Mirren). He tells them "America is already gone" and takes them deep into the rain forests of Central America, where he labours to create a utopian society. When he builds a huge ice-making machine that revolutionises jungle life but attracts unwanted attention, Allie's stubborn obsession drives his family too far. They soon see no alternative but to turn on him.

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
Based on Paul Theroux's book of the same name, The Mosquito Coast is somewhat of a forgotten Harrison Ford or Peter Weir film. It shouldn't be. Having read the book, I can see that the two formidable talents on either side of the camera have combined to create a powerful elegy to the folly of modern man. Weir goes deep into the inhospitable jungle (he shot in Belize) and even deeper into the psyche of man; those that want to create a utopian society in which men will be free - but only if he can dictate the terms of it - and those who want to stop him (Andre Gregory as the similarly idealistic Rev. Spellgood).

Both men are missionaries; just from opposite sides of belief. And in front of the camera, Ford arguably gives the best performance of his career. He's totally believable as the genius inventor who "dropped out of Harvard to get an education," so stubbornly focused in his tunnel vision and so egocentric to the point of madness that we can hardly stand to spend two hours in his company.

Such heady themes and such a dislikeable (but admirable) central performance have made Mosquito Coast one of their lesser known works. But keen film fans (and well-read ones) will enjoy the film on many levels. Looking on and narrating the downhill events is River Phoenix in a quietly powerful performance as Ford's oldest and most loyal son. He admires his inventor father and listens to every word he says, making his eventual betrayal all the more heartbreaking.

Unfortunately, the DVD is a disappointing transfer that comes in two channel sound, PAL full screen and without a lick of extras. I would have like to have heard from the brilliant Weir - surely Australia's best directorial export - and why he chose to make the film. Filming in the jungle would have been a nightmare. And Ford could have shared why he chose to play such an unlikeable bastard, having mostly stuck to swashbuckling heroes throughout his celebrated (but rather one-dimensional) Hollywood career.

Without such extras, Mosquito Coast will simply continue to be an under-appreciated masterpiece, and that's a great shame. But those that know will no-doubt want to revisit the decent into hell that reveals so much about human nature; how far man will go for perfection, and what happens when he knows it can't be achieved.

Published October 9, 2003

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(US) - 1986

CAST: Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, River Phoenix, Martha Plimpton, Andre Gregory, Butterfly McQueen, Conrad Roberts, Jason Alexander.

DIRECTOR: Peter Weir

RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes

PRESENTATION: Presented In A "Widescreen" Format Preserving The Aspect Ratio Of its Original Theatrical Exhibition; Enhanced For Widescreen TVs; 16x9 Full Frame;



DVD RELEASE: October 15, 2003

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