When Obsession Bites
The saying goes that there are two sides to every story and there are certainly two sides to the story at the heart of "The Mosquito Coast". There is the first side which is all about a man who having grown tired of the way America is going decides to set up his own utopia in the jungle, creating machines and homes with clever inventions. But then there is the second side which is all about this man's obsessive behaviour, his refusal to admit he is wrong and putting his family in jeopardy by doing so. Unfortunately the two sides don't fit together when it comes to "The Mosquito Coast" because after an entertaining first half the second drags on despite of a brilliant performance from Harrison Ford.
Inventor Allie Fox (Harrison Ford - Witness), who having just created a machine to make ice using fire has grown tired of the way America is going and believes war will break out and destroy the country. So Along with his wife and children he takes them to the middle of the Central American jungle where he plans to build his own utopia and a super sized version of his ice making machine to bring his idea of civilization to the locals. But when things start to go wrong Allie refuses to admit either that he is wrong or defeat and in doing so jeopardizing his family.
"The Mosquito Coast" is sporadically narrated by Allie's son Charlie, the movie opens with an introduction from him and closes with his words as well. Why is this important? Well part of what the movie aims to be about is Charlie's relationship with his father, idolizing him and believing everything he says early on; to hating him when he becomes obsessive to understanding him by the time the movie ends. I said aims because whilst we see Charlie's relationship with his father evolve it ends up a side story to the actual story.
As to that story, well as I mentioned before it has two sides and frankly the first side is the far more entertaining as we have Allie and his family creating their own utopia in the midst of the jungle. There is something "Swiss Family Robinson/a>" like as we have Allie's wonderful inventiveness, not just in his huge version of his fire and ice machine which provides air conditioning but also amusing things such as a ceiling fan powered by hanging weights. There is a real sense of entertainment and ingenuity as we see this utopia built from being a ramshackle collection of sheds to beautiful but simple homes.
But then there is that second side which focuses on Allie's personality as he becomes increasingly and dangerously obsessive, refusing to admit defeat or that he is wrong. Don't get me wrong as it is very interesting as we watch how Allie sees anyone who dares disagree with him, especially his family as his enemy but after the entertaining first half the shift in tone ends up jarring. Although trust me the scenes which are the catalyst for the switch from entertaining to drama are some of the most eye catching and director Peter Weir has at times created a visual master piece.
Whilst "The Mosquito Coast" ends up being a movie which jars the performance from Harrison Ford as Allie is brilliant and takes him from being an opinionated and eccentric inventor to the edge of being a madman, in fact you could say he goes the full way due to some of his actions. But it is very much Ford's performance which dominates the movie because the likes of Helen Mirren who plays mother and River Phoenix who plays Charlie often end up brushed aside by Ford's full on performance and the fact their characters are under written.
What this all boils down to is that "The Mosquito Coast" is an entertaining movie but is undone by two contrasting sides which end up jarring. Never the less it is well worth a watch especially for the entertaining inventiveness of the first half and Harrison Ford's total performance.