Following test screenings, the title of Lee Tamahori's
survival-in-the-wilds thriller Bookworm was changed to the presumably more
slam-bang The Edge. However, this is a case where the original title
should have remained, for the staid-sounding Bookworm is a more apt moniker
for this unexciting adventure yarn.
Sir Anthony Hopkins plays Charles Morse, the bookworm of the original
title, a billionaire who has acquired a wealth of knowledge from the
reading of numerous books. The film begins with Charles arriving in Alaska
with his much younger model wife, Mickey (Elle Macpherson, displaying all
the depth of a fashion plate)--yes, her name is _Mickey_Morse_--and ace
fashion photographer Robert Green (Alec Baldwin) for a shoot. Screenwriter
David Mamet's creaky plot machinations can be heard early on with the very
weak setup for the wilderness action: determined to locate a particularly
photogenic local to join Mickey for the shoot, Robert, with trusty
assistant Stephen (Harold Parrineau) and Charles along for the ride, leaves
the cushy cabin lodgings on a plane, which promptly crashes in the middle
of nowhere. Can these three survive on their own in the Alaskan
wilderness, with a very hungry bear on their trail?
Actually, the question is really if these _two_ can survive, since it's
thunderingly obvious that Stephen won't be around for long because (1) the
tension brewing between Charles and Robert over Mickey has to take center
stage sooner or later, and (2) Stephen is African-American. And the
answer, of course, is a big yes since Charles has learned volumes of
survival know-how from books--we see him make a compass using a paper clip
and a leaf in water as well as recite a particularly clever formula for
making fire from ice. Before long, we get the point: it takes brains, not
necessarily brawn, to survive in the wild. But Mamet and Tamahori keep on
pounding that point into the audience's heads as if we were an opponent
needing to be pummeled into submission.
Tamahori does bring The Edge to life during some spectacular bear attack
sequences. This may sound a little silly, but Bart the Bear delivers the
film's most memorable performance as Charles and Robert's (and, for a
while, Stephen's) bloodthirsty stalker; big, brown, and very, very
intimidating, he gives his scenes an electrifying jolt of energy.
Unfortunately, the bear is not the focus of the film; the Charles-Robert
conflict is, and once the bear situation has come to a head, all that
follows cannot help but feel a bit a dull by comparison. This would not
have been as big of a problem if the Charles-Robert conflict came to a
moderately satisfying, halfway exciting conclusion, but, not so
surprisingly, everything ends with a whimper.
Which leaves the audience wondering--what exactly does the title mean?
The edge of sanity? The edge of the world? Perhaps one, perhaps the
other, perhaps both, but all I know is that by the time The Edge was over,
I was at the edge of my patience.