Wind (I) (1992)
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Of course, there's a larger set of stories, the classic love stories: between men and women, of sailing, of ideas, of ideals; the rough retelling of the Dennis Connor story (though I place Robertson/Weld as Connor, not Modine/Parker); an accurate representation of the "Old Boys'" network that *is* big-money yacht racing --I've met "Abigail Weld" many times; and the "absurdity" of a desert-based effort winning the Cup, a nod to the Melges' campaign.
The photography is astounding, the character development (the reason for the film's length) good, and the music complimented everything admirably.
That it's "about" sailing will turn many off, but those of us with a love of the sea and sailing hold this as a classic to be cherished.
Matthew Modine is Will Parker, a good sailor who is slightly overconfident about his skills. He joins the crew for the America Cup, but his actions help to lose the nation's undefeated title to their tough Australian rivals. This was more than just a loss of the cup to the new world champions, but it also ended his relationship with girlfriend Kate Bass (Jennifer Grey) and sent the boat captain into a bout of depression.
But, Will Parker, with the next Cup race rolling around, Will Parker wants to reunite a team, and seeks the help of Kate and her new beau Joe (Stellan Skarsgård) to help him rebuild his confidence, his team, and a better boat. Will and his team challenge the Aussie's to defend their title for a second year.
Indeed, as another viewer wrote, the movie is rather long. But, the subject of the movie is really something different, and the photography is just beautiful as you get the first-person perspective of competitive sailing, and it really gives an appreciation of what all goes into the sport, even the traditions. Modine's character is a little annoying because he sometimes obnoxiously boasts his masculinity to Kate as though trying to show up her new boyfriend, Joe. It's worth catching if you can find it around.
The film does a excellent job of dramatizing a sport that on first appearances to the layman will probably appear boring. A fine balance has to be drawn between exposition and drama, and I believe Wind achieves this admirably. This supported by the many friends who have seen this film upon my recommendation, most with no interest in sailing at all.
The two leads are fine, the Aussie skipper is good fun as a typical Aussie! The only bad call is the Abigall Weld character - rapidly becomes annoying and unrealistic.
Where the film scores even better is the superb camera work during the racing sequences, in particular the aerial shots - quite breathtaking. No review would be complete without mentioning the films score - quite simply some of the most uplifting and beautiful music I have ever heard.
Wonderful film, highly recommended.
Contrast between the ocean and the desert where designer and builders construct the American challenger boat bring a delightful balance to the iconography.
Preppie clothing and elegant on land settings let us pretend ourselves into a special and exclusive world. With all this, the actors play their hand in the melodrama with just the right pitch. I enjoyed the movie. Well worth watching again.
character, Will Parker, is loosely based on Dennis Connor and his performance at the 1983 and 1987 America's Cups. One of the few movies about sailboat
racing, does turn heavy-handed at some points, but overall is an appreciable, tightly made film with high production values. I would recommend it.
Bottom line, if you like sailing or the America's cup, you'll probably find parts of this movie enjoyable, and other parts a bit cheesy, over the top, or poorly acted. I would say that the sailing sequences are fun enough to watch that this movie is worth watching once for sailing buffs, and possibly someone interested in the sport.
Perhaps for that reason I have always been drawn to "Wind." Like others it happens to be one of those movies that I enjoy watching over and over if it happens to be on television.
Yes, the plot is a bit formulaic and predictable, the acting not always sterling, but the film has very strong characterization and amazing cinematography, especially in the middle second act which I think is actually stronger than the very good sailing scenes.
There is an atmospheric and entrancing quality to these desert scenes, a kind of sleepy seduction to the sweep of the shots and the austerity of the environment. I always find it powerfully persuasive in its understated beauty and relaxed pacing.
This film may mark the end of Matthew Modine's arc as an '80s acting icon--"Cutthroat Island" perhaps being the more likely candidate--though he has consistently stayed employed. He always seemed an odd fit as a leading man but I enjoy him in the occasional character acting he now does. He is stronger in this role than he's given credit for, carrying several scenes well.
Cliff Robertson doesn't entirely phone this one in - the scenes where he has gone around the bend after losing the Cup are funny and well acted.
Taken on the strengths of the amazing cinematography, a nicely paced and composed, if predictable, plot, and fine acting make "Wind" easy to recommend.
But you best like movies about sailing.
Loosely speaking, Ballard makes two types of films. Those in which humans tentatively interact with "wild" animals, and those in which man interacts with nature via technology inspired by the natural world. In the first category Ballard's made fare like "The Black Stallion" and "Duma", in the second he's made films like "Wind" and "Fly Away Home".
Arguable one of his best films, "Fly Away Home" is about a daughter and father who build an ultralight air-plane that mimics the behaviour of, and acts as a surrogate mother for, a flock of geese. Using the plane, the duo guide the birds to a sanctuary several hundred miles away. It's a touching picture, filled with beautiful scenery, gorgeous aerial footage, sensitive direction and some wonderfully understated acting by Jeff Daniels Anna Paquin.
Though his financiers force formulaic plots upon him, Ballard dislikes heavy-handed storytelling, and so tends to keep his characters quiet and muted. With his ethereal visuals, use of silence and love for wind/nature, "Fly Away Home" strongly conjures up the work of Malick and Miyazaki.
The film has flaws: some of its rear projection is intrusive, some of its conflicts are a bit clichéd, some of its villains are cartoonish, and aside from the opening and closing song, Ballard's musical score isn't strong enough for such a poetic picture. Still, these flaws are minor and don't intrude on the film's better qualities.
While "Fly Away Home" involves an inventor building an air-plane, "Wind" involves a group of mechanical engineers designing a boat. Sounds boring? Both films are more interested in mood and ambiance than they are plot. In "Wind", the design team relocate to a huge hanger at the centre of a vast desert, a world away from the oceans they hope to conquer. We watch as they sculpt away at their boat, Ballard salivating over sleek hulls, tall masts and mighty rudders. Muscles, skeletons, animals, rocks, wind and water are studied and observed, the boat a failure if its body doesn't bend to the will of the waves.
Both films deal with men and machines waltzing with nature; our ultralight air-plane is only believable to the geese if they perceive it to be their biological mother, and Ballard's boats fail if they don't slice cleanly through the winds and waves. To resist nature is to compromise the design.
Both films were also mildly influential in how they added to our camera vocabulary. "Fly Away Home" gave us some then new three-dimensional camera sweeps and "Wind" offered several cinematic baby steps as well, using specially designed camera mounts for both helicopters and boat hulls, masts etc.
"Fly Away Home" is the better of the two films - it's one of the best "family" films of the 1990s - whilst "Wind" is plagued by a bad script, though it does also offer excellent mood and ambiance. You sense that Ballard wants to avoid conventional Hollywood scripts as much as possible, but that they're necessary to provide some semblance of either structure or marketability.
"Fly Away Home" – 8.5/10
"Wind" – 8/10
The characters are developed well, and have depth and substance, which adds to the power of the film to engage. One does not need to know anything about sailing to get swept up in this film, but those who do will appreciate the accuracy with which the film was made.
Still, after viewing the film it has several good points. The photography is breathtakingly good in the racing scenes. I never grasped how difficult, dangerous, and physically demanding such racing actually is. Normal coverage of the racing is kept at such a distance to avoid influencing the race outcome that most all the intriguing details never reach the lay audience. The film was able to bore in to close range to allow us to see much of what the crew must accomplish to win a race. The physical demands are immense, the crew must be in superb physical and mental condition to have a competitive race entry.
The score by Basil Poledoris is just superb. I got hooked on his music after watching 'Red Dawn'. I re-watched 'Wind' just to concentrate on the score. It is amazing how well his music enhances and complements the action on the screen. He can take a so-so portion of the film and turn it into a superb experience. The man is an authentic musical genius!
The actors in the film are more of a mixed bag. Matthew Modine, portraying the character 'Will Parker', has this unbelievable blow-dry hair style that is ludicrous for a man in this film. It is obviously retouched after every scene to keep every strand in place. Those scenes where he wears a hat work for me, the rest comes across as farce. The plot has 'Will Parker' as such a wuss that he is willing to dump the woman he loves and follow life-threatening orders to keep his position in the crew of the ship defending the cup.
Jennifer Grey has a more believable role as 'Kate Bass'. She is drawn to 'Will Parker' and willing to sacrifice her dreams to help him fulfill his greatest goals. Jennifer was very convincing in this role. She was tanned and obviously very athletic. She let her hair take its natural course on the boat. It was much more convincing than her pretty-boy love interest. 'Kate Bass' pours her heart and soul into the effort to defend the cup, only to run afoul of the 'old-boy network' and be ejected from the team.
A smarter man than 'Will Parker' would have stood by his woman and left with her. Her input was vital for the crew and without her, their effort to defend the cup falls short. At least he figures out how to get back on track after moping around in depression for several months.
Cliff Robertson phoned in his lines in this film. He obviously had little emotional involvement in providing a good performance. The other supporting actors contributed little to the film. The director obviously fell down in allowing such minimal performances to see the light of day.
We get to see some background in the design of a competitive entry in the race. The film briefly touches on this process. In reality, massive computer power and extensive testing of scale models in water tanks are necessary for success. A tiny percentage decrease in drag can lead to a winning entry. Of course, such advances become harder and harder as designs become ever more refined over the years. The sails are one area where significant advances in performance are still possible. The film illustrates how aerodynamic principles can be applied to sail design.
Finally, I noted that the crew assembled to sail the new boat were also superb artisans able to build the new design effortlessly. They could do metal work for the beams and ribs as well as lay up the carbon fiber for the hull. The paint scheme for the hull and sails was also first-rate artistically. In reality, skilled professionals and massive production facilities are needed to build a competitive entry. Perhaps I should refrain from such detailed analysis of the details and just enjoy the film.
This film, one of the best examples of director Carroll Ballard's magic, will knock your socks off and blow you away with its excitement but realism (you will hear and feel the boats groaning and keening with the wind stresses!), and GREAT MESSAGES - It is about losing everything, and winning it all back again through individual and team angst and sheer will (I have shown parts of it to my science students not just for the physics of sailing, but for these timeless messages). Sailor or not, no matter how many times you watch it, it leaves you glowing for hours.
The sailing is kinetic. The tactics are reasonably explained. It adapted some of the actual America's Cup incidents. It's a functional sports movie. There is a romantic backdrop but it does not take full advantage. It could have been a romantic triangle or even a quadrangle. The acting is solid. With the energetic sailing scenes, this has its memorable moments.