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Based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway. Santiago goes out on his usual fishing trip and makes a huge catch, the biggest of his life. Then a shark attacks and tries to steal his catch. Santiago battles with the shark for days. He returns to the shore beaten, tattered and torn, and his catch consisting now of mostly bones. Written by
Jason Ihle <email@example.com>
Anthony Quinn makes a much better Santiago than Spencer Tracey did, and director Jud Taylor and screenwriter Roger Hirson manage to make the right decisions regarding editing and plot, distilling Hemingway's simple, powerful, story to its fundamental human elements and adding elements of characterization which a more 'faithful' adaptation would have missed.
It is remarkable that this film was made for television broadcast. It sports a cast and a pedigree well above the typical TV movie of its time, and - with a little more budget - would have made a fine big screen film.
Santiago is an old man in a small fishing village in Cuba. Some of the local men feel that his failure to catch fish for the last 84 days has brought a curse on the village, and they long for his retirement. Others, including Santiago himself, simply believe that he has had a run of bad luck. Inspired by a young man who worships the kindly old fishermen, a respectful innkeeper, and indirectly, by the sympathetic sentiments of a foreign writer (Tom Pruitt played by Gary Cole) staying in the village, Santiago begins what may be his final voyage out to sea, in search of a big catch.
Hemingway's story is one of many where the great writer expounds on his unusually sensitive and intelligent views of masculine ideals. In this adaptation of The Old Man and the Sea, however, Hemingway's tendency to diminish female roles in order to make room for men - thankfully - does not come through. Instead, the production team decided to add relationships (such as Santiago and his daughter) which nicely embellish the development of the central character as a passionately independent man who nonetheless loves those around him despite their refusal to understand him (except for his protégé, the young fisherman). The film also nicely touches on issues of aging.
Tom Pruitt (Gary Cole), is - basically - Hemingway. And this character interprets the old man for us, but subtly, and only as he learns from the example the old man sets - never as an omniscient god-figure who creates and sees clearly. As such, Pruitt and his lover (Patricia Clarkson) reveal something intimate about Hemingway's famously tortured relationship with his craft.
The story is shot and edited exactly as it should have been, and the feeling of Hemingway's story is much better developed than in the previous Oscar winning Spencer Tracey version. This is true despite the fact that Taylor's film strays much further from the original Hemingway story.
The film depicts a man struggling with the sea, a crisis of self-confidence, and accusations of uselessness - but who never once loses sight of his prospects and inner strength. The dignity of the character is very admirable, and Anthony Quinn's performance is mesmerizing. Quinn pours his soul into Santiago - and it is clear that the great actor understood his character perfectly. Excellent support is provided by Patricia Clarkson and a very good but largely unknown Latin American cast) Unfortunately, Gary Cole's portrayal of Hemingway is not one of his better efforts and some of his scenes are unconvincing.
Recommended for Hemingway and Quinn fans - but not for purists. Recommended for patient fans of human drama. Not recommended for people with limited attention spans.
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