Sage in the woods

So I’d like to discuss a man that will be familiar to some, but possibly a stranger to several others, and that’s David Mamet.

David Mamet, also known as ‘Pulitzer Prize winning David Mamet’, is a screenwriter and a director. His writing style is famously ripe with sharp wit and florid dialogue, and usually consists of cynical people standing in offices or on street corners – trying to out-talk each other. Mamet started off as a playwright and ended up writing screenplays for The Untouchables, Hoffa, Heist, Wag The Dog, etc.

In the middle of all that he wrote the script for a survival drama originally entitled Bookworm. Lee Tamahori directed it (look him up on your own time), it starred Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin, and by the time it was released it had been officially re-titled The Edge. I’m not sure there was ever an abundance of confidence in this thing but it ran on some ads, sold some tickets, and disappeared fairly quickly from the cinema. I first saw it late one night on TV, and quite liked it. Ok, so it’s not great, but it naturally has some good tension-building dialogue and surprisingly nail biting action scenes. Plot:

“A billionaire and two other men are stranded, unequipped, by a plane crash in a dangerous wilderness. How many will survive to be rescued?”


That’s a bit too simplistic. It’s actually about a billionaire, with an unsurpassed gift for memorising trivia, who suspects that his model wife is having an affair with her photographer. The tension between them becomes intensified when they crash their plane due to a chaotic, random, not to mention narratively convenient…

…and have to work together to survive.

It’s not a typical Mamet concept, I have to say. Perhaps that’s why some people are a little lukewarm on it. I thought it was great fun to watch and fantastic to listen to. I loved the idea of creating a character who was both incredibly rich, courageous, and intelligent. They always tell you in class to give you characters flaws but here Hopkins doesn’t seem to have any. Inexplicably and unconventionally refreshing, I say.

It’s a bit of a feel-good film as well, in the sense that it made me feel ‘up to the task’. “That’s right, I’ve seen The Edge man! I can survive the wild!”

Of course, this is a highly misguided sense of confidence, because the tricks shown in the movie only make up about 4% of what you’d actually need to know in order to survive that kind of ordeal.

…hmm. Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, David Mamet, Lee Tamahori, the wilderness, random bird attacks…what else is there? Well Mr. Hopkins, take a look around…

Yes, there’s a bear in this movie. Not only that, it’s also an unrelentingly homicidal one. Now remember, this movie was made before the full inception of CGI, so naturally they had to bring in a real bear! Of course, why wouldn’t you? Real bear, fake bear, what’s the difference?

Ok, so real bear is scarier! It’s way scarier, and far more believable, making this bear the fuzzy equivalent of the shark in Jaws. As if the cold and the isolation isn’t bad enough, now Hopkins and Baldwin also have to outrun a large carnivorous mammal. Fun for the whole family!

If you liked Into The Wild, but felt a little overly drenched in sappiness by the end, then this is the remedy for you. Smart, structured, tense, exciting, and superbly acted, it’s a solid night’s rental.

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