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Insightful Drama From Peter Weir
jhclues20 May 2002
Someone once said that ignorance is bliss; and if you follow through the reasoning process that leads to that conclusion, you discover that it is, indeed, true. Another way of saying it would be, that the less you know, the happier you are likely to be; kind of a `what you don't know can't hurt you' perspective, but true, nevertheless. Conversely then, what can be said about knowledge? About knowing too much? Can genius, for example, be equated with a life of torment? Can knowing-- and more precisely, understanding-- too much bring about anguish and unhappiness? The answer to that , of course, cannot be absolute, for there are a number of variables that must first be factored in, one of the most prevalent being that thin line that separates the true genius from madness, and how close to which side of that line the individual in question resides. It's a situation examined in depth by director Peter Weir, in his riveting, thought provoking drama, `The Mosquito Coast,' starring Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren and River Phoenix.

Allie Fox (Ford) is a family man; he has a devoted wife, `Mother (Mirren),' and four children, the eldest of whom, Charlie (Phoenix), thinks his dad is a genius. Which he is. Allie Fox is an inventor who believes it's man's job to tinker with an unfinished world and make it work. He is also a true individual, the epitome of the man who marches to his own drum-- and in his case, his drum is the `only' one he will march to. He sees such potential in everything around him, but he also sees that very same potential being wasted at every turn by seemingly everyone, from the average guy just trying to make a living, to a Corporate America he sees as the impetus that has already begun to destroy the nation. All around him he sees a country and a people that has lost that spirit that made America strong; he sees ruin and decay in everything: In the lack of quality in any and all manufactured goods, and in the apathy of the acquiescent consumer. And he's had enough. Refusing to stand by and watch America die, he packs up and moves his family to a remote section of a jungle in Central America, near the coast of La Moskitia; and it is there that he discovers a land, that to him, is paradise-- and where he also encounters the demons that plague those who know too much, and feel too deeply.

Working from an intelligent and penetrating screenplay by Paul Schrader (adapted from the novel by Paul Theroux), Weir delivers a thoroughly engrossing character study that parallels Werner Herzog's 1972 masterpiece, `Aguirre, The Wrath of God,' inasmuch as it examines the effects of self-perceived omnipotence in an individual driven to extreme measures by a singular quest for power and autonomy (albeit in different times and with different motives). Allie Fox, like Don Lope de Aguirre, becomes a victim of his own obsession, consequently victimizing those around him, as well, by losing sight of his own ideals and getting swept away in the current of a distorted sense of purpose. Allie leaves an environment he perceives as defective for one that is ultimately equally flawed-- that being the environs within his own mind. All of which is hauntingly presented by Weir, aided by John Seale and Maurice Jarre, whose cinematography and score, respectively, helps to create the atmosphere that so effectively underscores the drama of the story.

As Allie Fox, Harrison Ford gives a performance that is one of his best and most powerful ever, affecting a commanding presence that dominates virtually every scene-- so compelling that his presence is felt even when he is absent from the screen. This isn't a character you are going to like, necessarily; and yet you are going to care about him, because there's something in him that reflects and addresses concerns that are universal, which makes Allie someone to whom many in the audience will be able to relate and identify. He's the man who believes that he truly `can' be an island unto himself, and beyond his personal peccadilloes, that is the kind of strength that demands admiration; for at the same time, it enables forgiveness. It's a solid portrayal of a man at cross purposes with himself, who realizes to some extent what he is doing, yet adamantly refuses to back down. And this is the man Ford brings to life so vividly; he's convincing, and his Allie Fox is disconcertingly real.

Helen Mirren also turns in a memorable performance as Allie's devoted wife, whom he calls `Mother.' Mirren says more without dialogue-- through a subtle expression, or even the merest glance-- than most actors do with a limitless number of words. And it's her moments of silence that are some of the most telling of the film, while at the same time adding strength to the lines she does recite. In the end, Mirren creates a character who chooses her words well, then uses them wisely-- and it's a portrayal that is, without question, one of the strengths of the film. In the way Mother looks at Allie, Mirren conveys that love and absolute loyalty that makes everything they do believable. There is complete trust there, which you can feel when, standing in her kitchen, for example, she gives a final glance at the dishes piled high in the sink; a glance at the life she's leaving behind to follow her husband. And she's happy. In it's simplicity and brevity, it's a powerful scene that says so much about who she is, and who `they' are. And Mirren makes it work beautifully.

Phoenix does a solid job, too, providing the narrative of the film as Charlie. He is perfectly cast as Ford's son, and he succeeds in giving `The Mosquito Coast' that sense of reflection and perspective that makes it a truly memorable, and emotionally involving, film. 9/10.
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A classic of the 1980's
millennia-230 August 2000
I can almost guarantee that anyone who has seen 'The Mosquito Coast', then looked at the subject line of this review, thinks I'm crazy. The truth is that this film is deeply flawed and undeniably weak in many regards, but it had a quality I cannot describe. This is the only film I have ever seen that, despite many shortcomings, manages to come out of the storm relatively unscathed, and become an unforgettable, almost haunting, movie.

The production values are immaculate. Peter Weir's direction is excellent, and is in top form here. He has crafted a thick shell that blocks the flaws from coming up to the surface, an indescribable feat that very few directors have accomplished. The musical score is good, not outstanding, but it's fitting, and surprisingly subtle. There is only about six minutes out of the entire film that has musical accompaniment, which makes for a very unique experience, and not necessarily a bad one. The tropical cinematography is dazzling, and the decision to shoot on location in Belize instead of on a studio back lot really paid off, contributing greatly to the film's success.

As good as the mentioned characteristics are, nothing is as good as the acting, especially that from the two leads: Harrison Ford and River Phoenix. Prior to this, Ford had made a name for himself with big budget action roles, with several failed attempts at drama (Hanover Street being the best example of that). It wasn't until 1985's 'Witness' (which Peter Weir also directed, that Ford was taken seriously as an all around actor. Personally I think Ford's performance here greatly overshadowed his work in 'Witness', and is a career best for him, even in the light of 'Regarding Henry' and 'Presumed Innocent', both made after his. He takes the character of Allie Fox, and moulds him into a selfish, driving maniac, blind to the wishes of others, only caring for himself. Phoenix, on the other hand, deserves even more acclaim, for several reasons. For one, this was only his third film, after 1985's 'Explorers', and 'Stand by Me', made right before this. Secondly, he was only 15 at the time of the shoot, and had little acting experience, yet he easily out acted most of his co-stars. Though his performance wasn't quite as refined as Ford's was, he still reached a level of near perfection and set the stage for a glorious, and ultimately tragic, career.

The story is one of utter genius, one of the few original ones popping up in an industry full of sequels, remakes and rip offs. Based on the 1981 bestseller by Paul Theroux, and co-starring Helen Mirren, 'The Mosquito Coast' deserves a place among the best films of the 80's.

But wait, I'm not done. Despite a great exterior, deep inside the movie is troubled. It's as if director Weir pushed all the movie's problems deep down under the surface, then piled layer after layer of... something, on top of it, hiding them from the clueless audience. My main problem with the movie is that it yearns to break away from it's literary roots, a problem that could've been easily avoided had the right script come along. Entire conversations are lifted from the text, and there isn't a single line that doesn't have an equal counterpart in the novel. For me this got extremely tedious as, hours before popping in the tape for a second viewing, I had finished the book, and the two are much too similar.

Another problem I have with it is that the scenes are much too short, with none of them running over about a minute and a half. An obvious result of this is that many subplots remain unresolved, and several concepts are hinted at, but go without further explanation, making for a confusing story. If the screenwriter had put a little more effort into making the film different than the book, with new scenes, we would have seen a much better end product.

A third, albeit a smaller one, is that the production team apparently spent too much time making sure that the movie would get a PG rating, though it would've been much better had it gotten an R, or even a PG-13 rating. That would've allowed Ford a little more breathing room to tweak his character, possibly allowing Allie to become less sympathetic, more of a madman.

I can't think of much more worth saying to put in this review, so I'll end it with this note: see the movie, even if you've read the book, but don't do the two back to back.
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The Iceman Cometh
Lechuguilla23 August 2010
Frothing at the mouth with disgust for his homeland America, inventor Allie Fox (Harrison Ford), with family in tow, pulls up roots, and moves to Central America. Here, he proceeds to build a new life in the jungle, using his mechanical skills, his inventiveness, and in particular his patented machine, which produces ice, sans electricity. "Ice is civilization", he proclaims with unctuous authority. That will be the foundation for his utopian dream. But Allie is so headstrong, so convinced of his infallibility that his vision blinds him to reality. And the film's ending is poignant.

Delusion and self-deception breed nightmarish outcomes. And the cinema, through the years, has dramatized these themes quite well, in films like "Aguirre: The Wrath Of God", "Fitzcaraldo", and "Deliverance". In real life, delusion and self-deception were the basis for the events surrounding American preacher Jim Jones who, in the late 1970s, relocated his naive flock to the jungles of Guyana, whereupon he established Jonestown, envisioned as a religious utopia. The result was tragic.

Beyond the deep themes thus expressed in the script, "The Mosquito Coast" looks good visually. The tropical scenery is spectacular. Production design and cinematography are terrific. And the film's score, by Maurice Jarre, is wonderfully exotic and majestic.

My only complaint is the character of Allie Fox, who at some point badmouths just about everyone and everything. I could have wished for a quieter, less loquacious, madman. Then too, Harrison Ford plays Fox in a way that overrides subtext. In short, Fox not only is delusional and self-deceptive, he's also preachy, domineering, and totally lacking in compassion for others, someone whom we as viewers cannot root for or have any empathy with.

"The Mosquito Coast" reminds us that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Chasing that elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is for dreamers. This is a good film to watch when you're facing a pile of problems. You could be like Allie's family, trying to forge some existence in the jungles and listening to the rants of an icy madman.
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Excellently crafted - painful to watch
rollo_tomaso24 June 2001
Some of the other reviews summarize this pretty well. The Mosquito Coast details flawlessly the grotesque decomposition of a good and true man. Harrison Ford's Allie is driven insane by his own intelligence and inability to control his ego. Even more remarkable and disquieting is the fact that this is based on a true story. In some ways, Allie reminds me of Dr. Mobius from Forbidden Planet. But the demons Allie conjures up are far more grotesque and deadly than anything from even Mobius' warped imagination. I conclude that this is a true piece of art and science -- magnificently crafted from beginning to end -- and I will NEVER voluntarily watch it again.
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Life on La Mosquitia – Chronicles of the Fox Family
golem317 October 2005
Mosquito Coast is one of the best books I have ever read, and the movie does super well to do justice to that novel. It is also one of Harrison Ford's best character roles; the eccentricity and opinionated genius of Allie is done to perfection by him. Peter Weir's brilliant direction is to be expected considering his other masterpieces – Fearless, also based on an excellent book of the same name, is one of the best movies yet. His films (Truman Show, Green Card, and Witness come to mind) tend to chronicle troubles and eccentric characters to go out on a limb, literally.

The narration is carefully done, only enough voice-overs to explain the philosophical implications and underpinnings of the characters' thoughts and actions. There are, of course, some mysterious elements to how things happen, which can only be remedied by reading Theroux's book of the same name.

Taking a very Robinson Crusoe-esquire piece of fiction and putting it to film is not an easy process. In fact, this is the kind of novel that can be very easily messed up by the movies with strong action and adventure type Hollywood direction. Luckily, Weir has done an excellent job portraying the characters – not so much the plot – of those who will come to inhabit The Mosquito Coast. In short, not only is Mosquito Coast a film to watch, it should be required.

RATING: 10/10 "We eat when we're not hungry, drink when we're not thirsty. We buy what we don't need and throw away everything that's useful. Why sell a man what he wants? Sell him what he doesn't need. Pretend he's got eight legs and two stomachs and money to burn. It's wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong."
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Anti hero falls short of redemption
Davidon807 March 2006
With much of Harrison Ford's career during the eighties dominated by his participation in George Lucas and Spielberg blockbusters, it comes as a relief to discover that in between his numerous flights on the Milennium Falcon and slashing his whip he found time to star in many low key movies. Among these hidden treasures is The Mosquito Coast, a character driven story about one mans attempt to recreate an Eden in a faraway land. And his secret to survival? Ice.

This is an interesting movie, not only because it has an all star cast, that includes River Phoenix, but because we see Harrison Ford give his all to creating a character that is multi dimensional. He is an idealist and has the best intentions, yet is doomed to failure as the viewer senses an impeding violent side to his vision which will come to destroy him.

As a movie this is a good study of man's attempt to act upon his dreams, as a lighthearted pop corn flick this will annoy the average mainstream cinema goer. Simply put, many people will find it hard to imagine Harrison Ford as anything else other than the super hero incarnation of Indiana Jones, and multi faceted anti heroes that never see the errors of their ways is a genre of cinema that Hollywood hasn't quite got their head around yet.

For everybody else who would like to see a movie that has depth, great acting and a solid script, this will be excellent viewing.
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Goodbye America and have a nice day!
hitchcockthelegend8 June 2012
The Mosquito Coast is directed by Peter Weir and adapted to screenplay by Paul Schrader from the novel of the same name written by Paul Theroux. it stars Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, River Phoenix, Conrad Roberts and Andre Gregory. Music is scored by Maurice Jarre and cinematography by John Searle. Story sees Ford as Allie Fox, an inventor who has grown tired of what he sees as the disintegration of America. With his family in tow, Allie heads for what he hopes to be a happier life in the jungles of Central America. Building a self sufficient utopia, things start swimmingly, but can it last? Where does Allie's ambition end?

I have never read the novel, but I have it on good authority that it's cracker-jack stuff. Viewing this brilliant film, I regret not having indulged in the source material first. With that out the way, I can say that Peter Weir's film held me in an vice like grip throughout, it proved to be utterly compelling and beautiful to look at, yet as Allie Fox's ambitions and mindset begin to alter, a bleakness hones in to view and looms large over the picture. Propelled by a quite excellent performance by Ford, his own personal favourite and a film he stands strong in support of, film asks questions of man's place in the imperfect world, idealism and religious fervour; both pro and con. It's a bold and intelligent screenplay by Schrader, which only falters slightly with a mixed message come the denouement. Away from Ford and Searle's sharp photography, Phoenix and Mirren provide very strong support and Weir, a most undervalued director, paces it with his customary slow burn precision.

A hidden gem of the 80s and on Ford's CV, The Mosquito Coast is the kind of adult cinema we could do with more of these days. 9/10
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Star Vehicle Runs Out Of Gas
slokes5 February 2005
You can watch "The Mosquito Coast" and think of how cruelly the world tends to treat idealists. Or you can think how cruelly Hollywood tends to treat literature. It's true either way.

Harrison Ford stars as an inventor named Allie Fox, who leads his wife and four young children into the wilds of Central America (Belize here, Honduras in the novel) to get away from Western civilization, where people eat too much of the wrong things, anesthetize themselves with cheap entertainment, and are lulled to sleep by the falsities of materialism and Christianity.

Allie is better than that, of course, and so he plunges himself and his family into a jungle clearing beside a river. There they create a rustic utopia they can call their own, complete with a giant ice machine that works from internal combustion fueled by ammonia hydroxide. For a while they enjoy the simple life, complete with air conditioning and pedal-powered laundry machine. But paradise can be easier to attain than it is to maintain.

Ford obviously wanted to sink his teeth into some deeper material after the success he had in so many popcorn classics. He was coming off his best performance, in "Witness," and took that film's director Peter Weir along for the river run. You have to give Ford credit for seeking such challenges at the apex of a profitable career, and he does a good job with the character in the script. But the script presents more of a star vehicle for Ford's ambitions than anything worth viewing on its own merits.

It's funny that reviewers like Roger Ebert slammed this movie when it came out because Ford's character was unbearable. Allie Fox in the novel is unbearable, which is why the book is so good. He pushes and pushes his family and punishes them for their devotion. Even before making landfall in Central America, he goads his oldest son, Charlie, to climb a ship's mast and swing from the rigging. He rags on Charlie constantly, without reason, and is a thorough misanthrope, albeit often compelling as portrayed in the novel by Charlie's narration and author Paul Theroux.

But Fox in the movie is not so unbearable. We see Fox and his son, played by River Phoenix, share laughs and backslaps. He hugs and jokes with his wife, "Mother," played by Helen Mirren. Fox in the book is a dark man who spews insults at people, or makes loaded comments and then excuses himself with a terse "Just kidding." Ford imbues him with a sense of humor, an air of reasonableness, and squares off with antagonists who are truly nasty rather than ambiguous targets of Fox's hostility.

Ford maintains Fox's sense of idealistic contempt with Western civilization, and has fun with the many rants Fox throws up. A nice scene shows him going on about something as he starts a chainsaw, continuing to talk as the saw's roar drowns him out and not noticing. But a lot of the time Ford presents us with a beautiful dreamer, and the central idea of the story, that Fox is quite a dangerous man, is lost.

The result is a picture that lacks something the novel has, a sense of depth that gives perspective to the suffering we witness. The story in the book is Charlie's discovery of his father's selfish, dangerous heart. In the movie, it's more like: Why do bad things happen to courageous idealists? After a while, you start to glaze over from it all, and "Mosquito Coast" becomes an ordeal without a point.
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A mad scientist at the end of his rope
Mr-Fusion17 August 2018
Harrison Ford is often described as a movie star rather than an actor, but "The Mosquito Coast" easily disproves that (actually, so does "Blade Runner", but I digress). It's a fevered performance on which the whole film rests. Easily worth a watch.

But it also demands a lot from the audience. For one, there's an undercurrent of dread that's there right from the start and it's hard to watch Ford's mercurial character drag his family to the far ends of the jungle essentially to reboot civilization (a myopic one, at that). All I could think of was my family in that situation (hell, no).

I'm not going to lie, this is a hard movie, rife with misfortune; on occasions shocking, infuriating and exhausting. But I was glued to my seat until the very end, primarily because of Ford's deteriorating mental state. That's a house of horrors unto itself. This is a well-directed movie but man if it's not wearing.
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In hindsight (as of April 2015), one of the best films of the '80s
ramair35030 April 2015
I am a "child" of the 80s, and loved the big blockbusters (and at the top of that list, Star Wars and Indiana Jones). Harrison Ford was and still is an idol of mine.

When I first saw Mosquito Coast on video in the late 80's, my expectations were of a grand adventure in the tradition of Indiana Jones. I just rewatched the trailer for the film, and the narrator literally mentions Indiana Jones and says that this is "Ford's biggest adventure yet." The trailer is almost 100% composed of explosions, which again completely sets the wrong expectations. So when I saw it as a young teenager, I was thoroughly disappointed at the lack of action. There was just too much pesky dialog and not enough "good parts." Not enough explosions, by golly! Well, almost 30 years later, the film holds up incredibly well, and I find it infinitely more enjoyable than that first viewing. In my mind I put it in a category of "Ford's boring movie", but now I see it as one of his finest acting performances (possibly his best), and the story and production of the film has an artistic quality that was completely unappreciated by kids in the 80s, and even critics in the 80s (Roger Ebert gave it a thumbs down for being too boring).

If this movie was released today, I would not be surprised to find it on the Best Picture nomination list, and Ford up for best actor (and River Phoenix for supporting actor). The film is just incredible. The underlying storyline about consumerism is as relevant today as ever. The characters are unpredictable, yet you can identify with them. The location shooting adds a dimension and authenticity to the film that just cannot be replaced by filming on a Hollywood studio backlot.

In summary, I highly recommend this film and plan on adding it to my very limited personal collection of treasured movies (right next to Indiana Jones!).
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Galt of the Jungle
paul2001sw-124 June 2013
There's a touch of John Galt about Harrison Ford's protagonist in 'The Mosquito Coast': a brilliant, welfare-hating, atheistic inventor who retires from a civilised world full of moochers and looters and consequently doomed to collapse. He (and the film) also seem to share Ayn Rand's view of a world not occupied by Europeans as a virgin territory. Yet the film shifts from portraying him as a Randian hero to something rather less attractive; and odd moments towards the end reminded me of Andrey Zvyagintsev's superb 'The Return', albeit without the subtlety. Subtlety is really the key here: the film needs to show how the character's final descent is a natural consequence of his worldview, not some random madness; but Harrison Ford lacks the depth as an actor to pull this off. A young Helen Mirren co-stars, but the film is fundamentally all about Ford, and he can't fully convey the darkness of the man. It's a shame: there's a good (although somewhat fabulous) parable in the underlying storyline.
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"Ice means civilization"
bkoganbing19 March 2015
The Mosquito Coast is about a man following his convictions above all even to the detriment of his family. Harrison Ford is the man here playing an egotistical and iconoclastic inventor who takes his wife Helen Mirren and the four kids to Belize to set up his own idea of Utopia to escape the impending holocaust he sees as imminent.

If Harrison Ford indeed says this was his favorite role I think I know why. It is certainly one that is challenging in that in addition to ego and self righteousness you have to have a certain amount of charisma to hold even your family to you. Otherwise Helen Mirren would have taken maybe the first two kids and left him flat. Ford's world leaves no room for dissent.

Ford literally buys an abandoned town and makes himself mayor and builds an ice machine. In Belize this is something new and strange to the natives there. For a while Ford is held in wonder, but like with all Utopian schemes things go terribly wrong.

Ford's great antagonist is missionary Andre Gregory. Ford has a great old time mocking Gregory's religion, but as it turns out in the end Gregory has a far greater understanding of the surroundings he's in than Ford could ever aspire to. Watching The Mosquito Coast I was thinking of Jean Jacques Rousseau and his ideas of the 'noble savage' which Ford has swallowed uncritically. What would Rousseau do if he was set down in modern Belize?

Gregory also has a daughter played by Martha Plimpton and she awakens in his oldest son River Phoenix certain feelings that Ford for all his wisdom never discussed with his pubescent son. River is the first voice of dissent in the absolute monarchy that Ford rules over.

In real life River Phoenix and Martha Plimpton were an item for a bit. Later on she was paired off on the screen with River in Running On Empty.

This film and Running On Empty are both about a parent living an iconoclastic life and the affect it has on the family. River Phoenix's own family life, the communal living style they had probably gave him a wealth of experience to draw from. Although as he was quick to point out his family weren't fugitives from the law as they were in Running On Empty.

Ford's dissent in total madness is something to see. I wonder if that would have happened to Rousseau.
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wandering aimlessly upstream
MrsRainbow20 April 1999
The Mosquito Coast is an odd film. It attempts to talk about issues which are important and which few films address, fails to communicate them clearly, yet isn't sucked into the maelstrom of moralizing and sententiousness that films like this almost inevitably enter. Instead, it occupies some sort of odd middle ground of ambiguity and murkiness. One gets the feeling that the film is a lot like the Fox family: they know they're going upstream but they have no specific destination, and some of them really aren't sure why they're going there in the first place.

I felt from the very beginning that the film failed to define its ideals or set a sense of clear direction. Harrison Ford, in a performance which I found unconvincing (perhaps because of the inability of the film to articulate what motivated him), rambles on about everything from the Japanese to nuclear war. There's a large difference between subtlety, i.e. not spelling things out for the viewer, and incoherence. This was incoherent. We know that he's unhappy with America, but I don't know what he's really looking for, what motivates him, etc.. Maybe he doesn't know. But if that's the case, it should be made clear.

A good example of how this plays out is his attempt to bring ice to the "noble savages." Why does he do this? Because "ice is civilization." But why does he want to bring them civilization? It seemed to me that civilization was something he was having a lot of problems with. I assume that the novel explained this more clearly and the film failed to translate properly. He of course stated earlier in the film that the savages would probably think ice a sort of jewel. So? Why does this matter? Is he looking for lost innocence?

Then later in the film "Mother" says she wishes to go to Mr. Haddy's place. He responds "And live like savages?" I can only assume that he wishes to establish some sort of elementary civilization where a small community lives in peace and harmony. Or perhaps he's just looking to withdraw from everyone, as his spurning of Mr. Haddy's gifts would show. Also, a possible literary reference is the name of their craft, Victory, which is the name of a very dull Joseph Conrad novel about a man who withdraws from life and goes to live on an island. Extreme misanthropy? Unlikely.

A possible light at the end is his talk about man not being made to walk upright. Is he looking for some sort of return to primal existence? But then why invent air conditioning in Geronimo? It all adds up to a very disorganized mess, both in Mr. Fox's head, and on screen. The Mosquito Coast is like a puzzle that still has all the pieces, but rather than fit them together, Weir just threw them all in the box and let us look at them.
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mattrochman13 June 2006
Love Peter Wier. Love Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren. Hated this film. I could not, for the life of me, work out exactly what this film was trying to say or where it was intending to go. It astounded me to hear that Harrison Ford regarded it as one of his favourite films. Perhaps I'm missing something. But as far as I was concerned, the film generally lacked engaging qualities and the story seemed oddball, direction-less, contradictory and dripping with self-importance (that it didn't deserve). Really disappointed with this heap of dung. I don't think I missed the point because I don't think that the film knew what point it was trying to make - so how can any viewer profess to? Lies somewhere between "trash" and "dreadfully cluttered attempt at poignancy". 1/10.
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Good film- superb acting all around, but I wish it had a slightly different angle
BSideleau13 April 2008
Harrison Ford is brilliant in this film, as is the rest of the cast, and I am a big fan of this sort of film that explores the human psyche. I, however, wish the film spent just as much time showing the Missionaries evils and maniacal religious B.S. as it did painting Ford's character as a dangerous megalomaniac. I disagree with many of Ford's characters decisions over the course of the film...and in the long run he ends up becoming exactly what he set out to destroy, but his ideas on America are SPOT ON (and are just as relevant today) and it goes without saying that his errors are paled in comparison to what Christian missionaries have done through the brainwashing of the 3rd world people. My point is that Ford's character's plans were ill-conceived and nutty, but the world he left was just as insane.
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The Useless Utopia
view_and_review2 June 2020
We didn't come this far as human beings just to go backwards. Why reinvent the wheel? That's pretty much what Father aka Allie Fox (Harrison Ford) was doing.

Allie could be labeled eccentric, enigmatic, or even kooky--if he were single with no kids. Attach a wife and kids to him and then he becomes an unfit husband and father.

Allie took his family from the cozy lands of the United States into the jungles of some South American country in order to find a utopia that he would build. He was an inventor, and a darn good one. He was also arrogant. So arrogant in fact that he repeatedly put his family in harms way by believing in his own ability to create. He was an arrogant atheist with a God complex. He believed that the God he didn't believe in created a flawed and imperfect world and he was going to perfect it with his team... meaning his family: Mother (Helen Mirren), Charlie (River Phoenix), Jerry (Jadrien Steele) and the twins.

It was hard to watch "Mosquito Coast" without wishing for Allie's demise. He wasn't evil by any means, but his arrogant and hair-brained schemes had the same look and feel of an evil dictator's. And maybe shunning help in the pursuit of perfection is just that: arrogant and hair-brained.
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a fascinating premise carried out with some bold strokes of intellect and heart
Quinoa19842 July 2010
The Mosquito Coast features a main character who is not always agreeable. Matter of fact, he can be an outright a-hole, or a blowhard depending on his mood. Allie loves to hear himself talk and expound about how the world has gone to hell, and that America will be (or probably already has) been engulfed by nuclear devastation. He's also a (kind-of) genius, an inventor who has made a machine that with a lot of fire and other things can make ice. Allie is a dick, but he somehow can impress people - his family most of all.

This character was Harrison Ford's personal favorite. After the film ended, and while it was going on even, I could visage why. He gets to play against his usual 'type' if he has one, which is the straight-up hero, and it's a type he's had throughout his career (albeit with the occasional 'wrong-man' character like The Fugitive). He gets to play a jerk, but one who is smart and resourceful and cares for his family, and just has a kind of default in his character when it comes to caring for them, actually truly caring for what they want, when the time comes. Allie is a complex being, tragic in scope since he can't see a way to live normally once he's left home with his family. And yet they still love him, in spite of himself.

It's a smart movie, smart about how to create characters we care about (and some we don't but like seeing anyway like the Reverend played by Andre Gregory), and smart about how to film it in a mostly straightforward style. Weir sometimes allows himself some stylistic flourishes, notably a tracking shot following along Allie's face as he keeps expounding on this and that while he's leading along the building of his "town" that he owns. Or, of course, the big explosion scene, which is shot for a moment like a kinetic action movie with its explosion growing and spreading larger. But mostly he just lets the bizarre situation, and how it sometimes seems so not-bizarre, like this is the most natural thing imaginable, play itself out.

One may find something recognizable in this story, if only in other movies: I'm reminded of the jungle-quest pictures with Herzog and Kinski where they go off into the jungle for some mad quest or obsession to accomplish something (be it a boat over a mountain for opera or the glory of introducing natives to ice in this one); and Boyle's The Beach, which had a group of people leaving their lands not as a vacation but as a destination. But at the same time something feels raw and truthful in the material. I can't say how close it is to the book, though Paul Schrader's screenplay feels true to itself, how a family who had been living with such a man would react at first to leaving everything for a life in the jungle, then accept and kind of love having everything to themselves... and then seeing the true nature of a desperate man's wit's end at control. It's another in a long-line of men in Schrader's films that can't get what they want, despite not being 'bad'. It's a gray area deal, which works great when it comes time in the story for the inventor to face off against the typical "hear me Natives!" Reverend.

It's not entirely a great film. Sometimes a scene will kind of fall flat, or Ford, only once or twice, goes into being over the top instead of just believably ego-maniacal. But Weir steers this story, and this fantastic cast (River Phoenix and Helen Mirren get little masterpieces of scenes here and there), into some captivating waters. I was never quite sure what would happen, except that it would ultimately lead to run for this family - and I wanted to keep watching it, not as a train wreck but as a simple story of love and control gone awry.
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The movie that changed my life
Idocamstuf3 June 2003
I have already commented on this film, but I have seen it twice since then, and I think about it everyday. This is the kind of movie that Hollywood is too much of a wimp to release. This is not just a movie, it is a statement on American Society. This is by all means Harrison Ford's and Peter Weir's best movie, and it may be the best movie of the 80's. Roger Ebert should be ashamed of himself for giving this film ** out of **** when he gives a lot of lousy movies **** out of ****, I don't listen to his reviews anyway. The only people who don't love this film are the ones who are not open minded, or don't understand it. That 6.4 rating is way, way underrated for this film, it should be up near 8, considering what a lot of other crap gets rated. This is my number 1 movie. **** out of ****.
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very underrated, very necessary
takatomon30 November 2001
i bet alot of people don't like this movie because they don't want to reflect on how THEY relate to IT. alot of people don't want to be confronted with "koyaanisqatsi's" or "silent runnings" message. we can continue to bury our heads in the sand about what we're doing to the planet and keep on reproducing like roaches, but the earth will have the last laugh on us in the end. mosquito coast is an excellent character study with an important message. your children are going to inherit your landfill.
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A Great Film and an Award worthy performance from Mr. Ford.
peacham9 December 1999
Why Harrison Ford was not nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Allie Fox I will never know.The film is far superior to "Witness" as is his performance. The film did not do well in its initial release largley because fans did not want to see Ford in an unsympathetic light,but thats what acting is about and Ford attacks this role with gusto.The story concerns one mans obsession to build a Utopian paradise away from the civilized chaos of the world. His dream overtakes him and eventually destroys him. Not only is Ford riviting but Andre Gregory as the equally obsessed Rev Spellgood is outstanding.Gregorgy and Ford's rivalry is a central image in the film.Gregory's missionary is a "civilized world" intrusion to Ford's utopia and the two actor's play their scenes to perfection. Also strong are Helen Mirren as Ford's wife, and River Phoenix in a rare 3 dimenional performance as The son/narrator.
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An ego-centric genius and his family in the jungle
SimonJack28 July 2018
Harrison Ford gives a superb performance as Allie Fox in "The Mosquito Coast." It earned him a Golden Globe nomination for best actor. Fox is a genius of an inventor, with many patents and pending patents. Though, as with many people of true genius intelligence, he is lacking in social skills. And, his emotions and psyche waiver from the range of common human relations. He is radical in his viewpoints.

The difference between him and others like him, is that he does something about it by moving his family from America with its usual comforts -- besides its problems as he sees them, to the jungle of Central America. He sets out to create a utopia, but instead molds a dystopia. In the process, he becomes a tyrant and oppressor of his family. The contrast is obvious where Fox talks about freedom and the lack of it, and then lays down a heavy hand subjecting his family to hardship and frightening times.

The movie is based on a novel by American-British author Paul Theroux. I don't know how closely the film follows the book. The film clearly depicts a genius and idealist who is extremely proud. He knows he is superior to everyone else. In time, he becomes egomaniacal even with his family. More than once in the film, Fox says that he is doing this for them - his family, his children. But he is delusional and is obsessed with achievement while disdaining any outside help.

Others of the cast are very good. Helen Mirren plays Mother, wife of Fox. River Phoenix is the oldest son, Charlie, through whose eyes the story is told. Others in the supporting cast are very good as well. Most notable among them is Conrad Roberts as Mr. Haddy.

The film production is very good in all of its technical aspects. And the acting is first-rate. But this is a difficult movie to sit through. It seems quite long and many viewers may find it boring. It's not a movie that people can enjoy, but is more like a sad tale. For those reasons, it can't score higher than seven stars.
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a not always successful adaptation
mjneu599 December 2010
It's no wonder moviegoers were left perplexed by the film of Paul Theroux's best-selling novel: What looks like a modernized Swiss Family Robinson survival adventure is actually a thinly disguised and unsettling allegory, with an unsympathetic (and largely metaphoric) protagonist. Harrison Ford stars as Angry American Allie Fox, a paragon of Yankee virtue and individuality: inventive, proud, and possessed by an arrogant idealism that eventually destroys him. Sickened by the rampant corruption of American consumerism, he removes his family (with the effortlessness of true fantasy) to the unspoiled wilderness of Central America, creating in the jungle a self-sufficient Utopian Eden, later to be annihilated by the unchecked magnitude of his own delusions. Paul Schrader's screenplay exaggerates the character, but never beyond credibility; it's doubtful Theroux's story could be told in strictly realistic terms anyway. The only thing missing is a good resolution: the apocalyptic climax occurs too soon, and the film has nowhere else to go afterwards.
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A Mid-Level Effort For A Lost Message
statuskuo23 March 2021
Admittedly, I didn't read the book, so I'm writing this opinion from 2021 mindset based on the film itself.

Harrison Ford plays Allie Fox, a brilliant inventor who is lost in common sense. He espouses about how society is imploding on itself (as it is now) and decides to uproot his family to create a society away from the modern world. He finds his paradise (or should rather say MAKES his paradise) in the jungles of a spot aptly named "Jeronimo" There, he to the locals. Sort of.

Won't get much more into it. Director Peter Weir was one of my favorites growing up. "Witness" is an absolute gem of thriller. And "Green Card", though his most cupcake seems to rise above your average rom-com. Here, he allows Harrison Ford to be deeply unlikeable. Unfortunately, here, it fails. Not because he isn't convincing. But because the un-relentless nature of his character wants the audience to understand him. Which we don't. The reason why it starts off strong IS we can identify with how the modern world would be better if it were simplified to the basics. Which is did during Covid. Eat and sleep and prepare yourself not to die. That was it. It made us consider what is really important in life. This is all in this flick. BUT, then the anti-religion comes into question. In the character of reverend Spellgood who is the face of modern cults (looks like Jim Jones and preaches from a recorded televised sermon). An indictment on organized religion? Absolutely. The cult Allie Fox creates isn't dis-similar. He provides technology to the natives who see him as God. As he bullies his children and wife into submission. Speaking of which, a young Helen Mirren is BRILLIANT in this film and deserved an Oscar nom simply playing a woman who plays in subdued emotions. She loves and respects her husband but also has a threshold. And it is a lesson in reservation. Also notable is (obviously) River Phoenix. whose portrayal of Charlie Fox was absolutely much more mature than this movie deserved. Supposedly due to his own upbringing in a mind controlling cult. The film isn't a complete wash (literally). It has moments where you really pull for the family. And the inventions used to sustain life are always fun to watch (like in "Swiss Family Robinson") But, much like most mad genius obsessed madness movies, the darkness ruins tone of the film. Much like "Lord Of The Flies" "Lost City Of Z" "Apocalypse Now" The problem with these movies is that you set up the unsuspecting "sane" ones to have to go along for the ride. And these are the people we truly suffer with.
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drama turns into a cartoon
mcshortfilm19 July 2005
The best compliment I can give for this film is its glorious production value an breathtaking scenery however, The Mosquito Coast is a failed attempt to make a film about an alternative civilization and instead falls into a parody of idiotic characters. I'm not putting down the actors. In fact, there is a phenomenal cast here with Hellen Mirren, River Pheonix, and Harrison Ford. The problem is that the characters in this film are treated like cartoons. There's the wimpy and wacky missionary played by Andre Gregory and Harrison Ford sounds like a loud-mouthed ego maniac who lacks any awareness to his outside world. We see this in a scene when he complains to an Indian tribe after trying to deliver ice from a two day hike up the river. They are pointing arrows at him and he just assumes they will understand him. Is he a genius or an idiot? One of the worst elements of this film is how the natives of "Mosquitia" are portrayed. This is a politically-incorrect (racist) film if I ever saw one. These people are immediately welcoming of the Fox family as if they instinctively know that white people are going to save and improve their lives. Would'nt the Fox's be learning from them? What's even worse, is how brainwashed they become when the missionaries come to kidnap them. With the exception of Mr. Hattie, Peter Weir treats these natives like a bunch of mindless pawns. I really wanted to like this film and its too bad it was made by such a great director. It has a great premise and the scene of the towering ice machine in the middle of the jungle is chillingly symbolic.

If only Allie Fox had kept his cool instead of burning down the reverend's church, I may have liked he film a little more...but not much. I prefer realism in a film like this, not stereotypical cartoons.
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"Look around ya, how did America get this way? Land of promise, land of opportunity."
drewnes30 May 2021
I expected a The Swiss Family Robinson style story, but got more of a mixture of that with Falling Down. At the beginning of the movie I felt like Harrison Ford was making sense but by the end I was over it. I guess that was the point of the movie, but man talk about a frustrating journey.
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