The Mosquito Coast (1986)

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Released 14-Oct-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1986
Running Time 113:49
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Peter Weir
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Harrison Ford
Helen Mirren
River Phoenix
Conrad Roberts
Andre Gregory
Martha Plimpton
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $14.95 Music Maurice Jarre


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

        "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."

    Welcome to the world of Allie Fox (Harrison Ford). Allie is described by his loving son Charlie (River Phoenix) as an inventor and a genius, with 9 patents to his name - although of these 6 are still pending. Allie appears at first glance to be a normal loving husband and father to his four children. Sure, like many inventors, he is an eccentric, often forgetful of his day-to-day responsibilities and the needs of those around him and completely absorbed by the pursuit of his own ideas. But we very soon learn that there is indeed much more lurking beneath the surface of this man than just an inventor who is a little eccentric. We learn that Allie is also a paranoid delusional and only sees around him the bad in an ailing America. He sees only a decrepit society in which America has turned into "a dope-taking, door-locking, ulcerated danger-zone of rabid scavengers, criminal millionaires and moral sneaks."  He proudly tells his son that he is "the last man" and that he thinks and dreams about leaving America every day.

    And so he does. One day Allie packs up his family and heads to the (fictitious) Mosquito Coast, in Central America, there to form a new wholly self-sufficient lifestyle with his loving family. Allie buys - sight unseen and without so much as even consultation with his wife (Helen Mirren) - a small town called "Geronimo". And so together the family are swept away, finding themselves escorted upriver on their next big adventure together to discover their new home. When they arrive, all and sundry are completely dismayed to discover Geronimo contains nothing but a small clutch of deserted, dilapidated, unliveable shacks in an overgrown, no-mans land patch of the jungle. All are dismayed, that is, except Allie, who immediately exclaims that "it's perfect", refusing to see the current hopelessness of the situation and instead only seeing the dream of what it could become. Indeed, through Allie's determination and ingenuity and the sheer hard work of all around, they do reclaim the land and build their own little piece of paradise. All seems to be going well in Geronimo, until local missionary Reverend Spellgood (Andre Gregory) arrives unannounced to spread the word of God.

    The Mosquito Coast is based on the novel by Paul Theroux. The film is consummately crafted in the capable hands of Australian director Peter Weir, teaming up again with compatriot talented cinematographer John Seale to create another truly beautiful film. (The pair had worked together for the first time the year before on Witness (also with Harrison Ford) and would a few years later collaborate to create the masterpiece Dead Poets Society).

    The Mosquito Coast sees Harrison Ford taking on a very brave and challenging role at that stage in his career, worlds away from what his newly won Star Wars and Indiana Jones fans might have expected. The role is a demanding one and whilst we can see that the character of Allie Fox is at first motivated by love for his family, he is also a paranoid and obsessive and, in the end, not entirely likeable person. This was therefore a role that bravely defied Harrison Ford's hero stereotyping and so risked alienating many of the fans he had won to this point of his career. As it turned out though, Harrison Ford's performance in this film simply confirmed the depth of his talent as an actor and this film sees him deliver what I would argue is perhaps the best performance of his entire career. It is indeed a pity that this film was completely overlooked for the 1986 Academy Awards. Ford is complemented in this film by a solid supporting cast, including the above-mentioned Helen Mirren, River Phoenix (particularly good) and Conrad Roberts, who all make their mark by making their characters believable, despite the absurdity of the situations in which they all ultimately find themselves. The story itself is told mostly through the perspective of Charlie (River Phoenix), with some voice-over narrations that for once actually seem to work very well in this movie.

    The Mosquito Coast is a moralistic tale; a film about the obsessiveness of one man's dream and the questioning of just how far a man should go to attain that dream. The plot is unpredictable and will keep you guessing with its many twists and turns. It is a film that is well paced and keeps relentlessly building up to its ultimate and inevitable conclusion. By the end you will feel a part of this family and the experiences they have gone through. It is a great piece of entertainment.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film benefits from a great video transfer to DVD.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, which is comparable to the original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1.

    Luminance is much better than I feared it might have been for a bare-bones DVD release of such a lesser-known 1986 film, and Warners have done a great job with the transfer. (We can be thankful this film warranted a release in Region 2, and so it was deemed economic to create a separate PAL transfer for a dual-zoned Region 2/Region 4 DVD.)  Sharpness is quite outstanding given the age of the source print, with most scenes displaying ample foreground and background resolution and only minimal visible film grain, giving a generally crisp image. There is a sufficient but not exemplary amount of shadow detail on offer in the transfer, and this is an important point, as there are some important plot pieces taking place at night or in dimply lit scenes in this film, with the level of contrast in these scenes being sufficient but wanting to reveal a bit more detail.

    Colour saturation is excellent and this is displayed to best effect in many of Peter Weir's wide shots of the jungle, with the transfer capturing well the bold colour contrasts of the lush greens of the jungle foliage, the azures of the sky and the deep blues of the river water. The transfer also delivers healthy black levels that are (for the most part) devoid of low level noise. Unfortunately though, the skin tones are a bit of a problem in this transfer, being tainted by an overly reddish tinge.

   No MPEG artefacts or material film-to-video artefacts are noted (some minor edge enhancement aside) - there is no aliasing issues or even telecine wobble or Gibb effect around the credits of any note. Film artefacts are there, as would be expected for a 1986 print, in the form of various minor flecks and the odd negative scratch, but overall this print has been maintained in very good shape.

   There are two English subtitle streams on the disc. I sampled the first of these (the plain English stream) and found the font to be clear, well differentiated from the background and relatively accurate. I can't say much for the timing of the subtitles however, as I found many lines being delivered on screen at times either too early (before the spoken word), or at other times a beat too late (behind the spoken word), which can become distracting.

   The film is contained on a single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is also perfectly sufficient, but note this is the original Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround mix (at a low 192 Kb/s) and not a newly created 5.1 channel re-mix for DVD.

    Dialogue quality is clear and strong throughout, with no muffled lines and only one isolated incident noted where the dialogue delivery is lost in the height of the action (Harrison Ford shouting over a raging storm), but I suspect even this may have been a deliberate artistic decision in order to heighten the drama of the scene.

    Audio sync wanders around a bit and whilst remaining within an acceptable tolerance range, I found the dialogue delivery to be at times half a beat behind the visual and then at other times just ahead.

    The music score is Maurice Jarre. It is quite distinctive, evocative and complementary to the on-screen action when used. The original theatrical stereo audio is a bit flat, with dynamic range seeming a bit constrained, hampering some of the audio impact. But still, the music itself is captured in the transfer with some clarity and the score swells well across the front soundstage and then spills over into the rears to good effect.

    This is indeed a 2.0 Surround mix and apart from helping to embellish the musical score, the rear channels are employed well to deliver numerous sound effects and other ambience, such as bird noises, jungle sounds, the wind and the waves. This is not a constant/immersive surround mix by any means, but it is an effective and subtle mix nonetheless.

    The subwoofer doesn't get a great deal to do and only just stays warm at best. The scene involving the explosion of "Fat Boy" at 74:15 for example lacks any real impact.   

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    None. The menu is a very basic screen with no animation and no audio, offering scene selection and subtitle selection only.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This DVD is available in Region 1 but does not appear to have been released as yet in Region 2. When it is released there, it will the same as Region 4, noting our disc is dual-zoned for this purpose.

    In comparison to the Region 1 version of the DVD, the Region 4 disc misses out on:

    In comparison to the Region 4 version, Region 1 misses out on:

    If you won't need the French language audio track or subtitles, then the only thing we miss out on here is the theatrical trailer, but in return we gain the superior resolution of a separate PAL transfer, so I would call this one even and recommend the Region 4 to you.

   

Summary

    The Mosquito Coast is a brave and stylistic film based on a great story of obsession and the lengths to which it can drive a man. It features Harrison Ford in arguably one of his finest performances. The DVD is a must see for any fans of either Harrison Ford or Peter Weir's work and, at this special price, the DVD is a bargain.

    The DVD video transfer is well handled, offering great resolution and colour saturation.

    The DVD's audio transfer is perfectly sufficient, although the original stereo surround mix is a bit flat.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Thursday, October 30, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using Component output
DisplayToshiba 117cm widescreen rear projection TV. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum/AVIA. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum/AVIA.
AmplificationElektra Theatre 150 Watts x 6 channel Power Amplifier
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears

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