Just as the men-lost-in-the-woods genre seemed to fizzle out,
along comes THE EDGE, a fresh, clever film written by fresh, clever
David Mamet. His screenplay combines elements of his action movies
like Homicide with his dialogue-driven plays on film like GLENGARRY
GLEN ROSS, not a combination I would have forseen as successful.
A lot of what makes THE EDGE work lies in the performances of its
two leads -- Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin.
Hopkins plays a billionaire who accompanies his model wife
(model Elle Macpherson) and some others to the wilds of Alaska for
an exotic photo shoot. Early on, two important details are cleverly
established -- Hopkins has a super-human level of book smarts never
put to practical use and Baldwin is jealous of Hopkins, in particular
his choice of a spouse.
The next day, Elle is decked out in Indian garb for a photo
shoot that needs a male model. Baldwin, the photographer, is
determined to find a man for this shoot and happens upon a portrait
of a buff native. The owner points them in the direction of this guy
and four of them take off in Hopkins' private plane to find him. The
trip is not a success; the plane goes down and the pilot dies. The three
who are left, Hopkins, Baldwin and his assistant (Harold Perrineau)
are stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no chance of rescue in
the foreseeable future.
It all could have turned into SWISS FAMILY HOPKINS right
about this point, but THE EDGE continues its level of brooding
brilliance through all of Hopkins' chances to test out everything he's
read. Mamet isn't subtle with foreshadowing, having Hopkins reading
"Lost in the Woods" a few minutes before he steps on the plane and
asking Baldwin, "How are you planning to kill me?" just before the
plane goes down, but the movie is way above the expected plot twists.
From the preview, I thought the whole movie would be
Baldwin stalking Hopkins in the woods, but THE EDGE keeps us
guessing about the Baldwin angle until the last half-hour or so. It's
man vs. nature until then, with the three stranded men scavenging for
survival and fighting the enormous "Bart the Bear," who should have
been the fourth-billed star in the movie. On paper, all of this seems
like cliche, but even the bear fights are tense and pulsing with
Hopkins is always good, but after seeing THE EDGE , it
seems impossible that his character in THE EDGE could have been
done justice by anyone else. Baldwin's character could have been
played by a million other actors, yeah, but he does a good job here,
and reminded me that he can be effective when he has the writing to
back him up. In stuff like THE JUROR, he was at the mercy of his
material, but in anything Mamet-related (GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS),
he is terrific. And it's interesting casting him here as a man with a
killer jealousy for someone else's wife; as Kim Basinger's husband,
Baldwin has probably been called "lucky stiff" by a million beer-
swilling blue collar workers.
Copyright © 1997 Andrew Hicks