in Review

You know, we’ve been talking about this tenth anniversary week for a long time. The problem is, we’d always end that conversation before coming up with a concrete plan for what to do. This Mildly Pleased Hall of Fame idea isn’t that fleshed out yet, but I think we’ll use it to enshrine media that specifically we all like. Meaning it’s not going to be the best stuff of all time, but the stuff that most represents our tastes. I had originally envisioned doing something like this years ago as a video essay series, but that’s a lot of work. So instead, I’ll merely write about a movie that has become the centerpiece of an annual tradition at the blog: The Edge.

The Edge is a 1997 thriller directed by Lee Tamahori – don’t worry if you don’t know who that is, his biggest claim to fame is Die Another Day, the 007 movie with that a giant ice palace and Madonna. It’s written by somebody you should know, however, David Mamet, the guy who wrote The Verdict, Glengarry Glen Ross, and The Untouchables (really?). He’s someone who has an incredible knack for dialogue, which is why it might surprise you that this is a movie about wilderness survival. Let me explain.

Anthony Hopkins stars as Charles Morse, a billionaire who’s smarter than everyone. Hops isn’t really playing against type here, since he’s known for also playing the serial killer who’s smarter than everyone, the robot inventor who’s smarter than everyone, and the Kiwi motorbike racer who’s, somehow, smarter than everyone. Charles takes his much younger wife, Mickey (Elle Macpherson), on a – wait a minute, her name is Mickey Morse? That’s hilarious, I never noticed that! David Mamet, you’re the best. Anyway, Charles takes her, a photographer (Alec Baldwin), and the photographer’s assistant (Harold Perrineau), along with him on a birthday trip up to Alaska. Or maybe the trip is a photoshoot for Mickey? It’s not totally clear. There’s just one problem: the photographer, Bob, is painfully, obviously having an affair with Mickey. At least Bob has the decency to try to hide it, making him not the MOST unlikable character Alec Baldwin has played, Mr. President.

Anyway, the three men decide to go get a picture of a nearby bear hunter when things suddenly get a whole lot worse than the awkward weekend we were promised. While flying off in search of this random guy, the group’s airplane smashes into a flock of birds. A crash landing in a lake kills the pilot, but Bob swims out and Charles manages to grab a bag of flares and Bob’s assistant and swim them all to shore. The trio quickly realize that it will take too long for rescuers to find them if they stay where they are, so they agree to hike across the frontier. Unfortunately for them, there’s a hungry bear hot on their trail.

There’s a tension between Charles and Bob due to the fact that Charles is the smartest man in the world and therefore aware of Mickey’s infidelity. The moment before the bird strike, Charles even asked Bob when he was planning on killing him. Later, Bob denies that intention, but the truth is, Bob can’t kill Charles regardless, he needs his encyclopedic knowledge of wilderness survival to make it back home. Nonetheless, their intense battle of wits keeps The Edge from ever getting dull, since they’re not only battling the freezing cold, the sparse environment, and a man-killing bear, but each other too.

I think that’s what makes the movie stand out among other survival movies too, that it prioritizes the personal growth and relationship between its two main characters over the big action scenes. Yes, there is a “cross a fallen log over a waterfall” scene. Yes, there is a big fire scene. Yes, there are a couple of bear fight scenes. But there’s also Charles trying to calm down Bob by telling him how to make fire with ice or showing Bob how to make a paperclip into a compass. That’s good shit.

The Edge is a funny, manly movie that I definitely am honored to add to our Hall of Fame. If nothing else, I love how quotable it is. “Most people who die in the woods die of shame,” is an easy favorite, along with “What one man can do, another man can do.” But, as this supercut proves, you can make anything into a quote by just adding the name Charles. Try it, it’s fun!