Before '1923', Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren teamed up for 'The Mosquito Coast'
Ford and Mirren star in this underrated 1980s classic before reuniting for Taylor Sheridan.
If the past decade of the rise of streaming services has shown anything, it's that there is no longer a distinction between "movie stars" and "television actors." While these used to be very different careers that attracted different circles of actors, we've now seen actors like Anthony Hopkins, Matthew McConaughey, Sylvester Stallone, Kate Winslet, Jeff Bridges Ash, Mahershala Ali and countless other movie stars return to the small screen for intimate prestige projects. So it's no surprise when an older veteran of the industry chooses to take the plunge with an extended series, but Taylor Sheridan's new Yellowstone prequel series 1923 reunites two of New Hollywood's most influential Icons: Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren.
Both Millen and Ford are responsible for changing our perception of modern actors. Ford is of course best known for his roles in the Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark franchises, but he continued to pursue avant-garde work with projects such as Witness, Presumed Innocent, Frantic and What Lies Beneath. Likewise, Mirren may initially be credited with starring in period dramas and stage adaptations, but she often ventures into quirky comedic roles and challenging genres car. These are two screen legends so accomplished and accomplished that only their first film, 1986's The Mosquito Coast, could allow them to completely erase any popular image their respective fans had of them. The Mosquito Coast stands in stark contrast to anything else Ford and Murren have done, so it's no surprise that it's often overlooked when reflecting on their greatest achievements.
Adapted from Paul Theroux's 1981 novel of the same name, The Mosquito Coast follows dogmatic inventor Ellie Fox (Ford) and his wife Margot (Mirren) Travel with their two sons, Charlie (Rivenix) and Jerry (Jadrien Steele), to the South American jungle where they can escape the perils of American consumerism. Annoyed at the failure of , and thinking that if he took his invention to an underdeveloped country, people would praise his invention as brilliant. The charismatic Ford had to do something he had never done before in this movie Thing - utterly obnoxious, unlikable and pathetic. Likewise, the confidence that Mirren usually brings to her characters is completely absent in her performance as a down-on-his-luck housewife. Forced to seek help from their own children. The Mosquito Coast is a grim morality allegory that has become even more relevant in recent years, and it's Ford and Mirren's brilliant and gutsy work that elevates an already excellent material.
Disaster and Satire in 'The Mosquito Coast'
The timing of The Mosquito Coast is an odd one in the history of mid-budget Hollywood films. The dreams of a "New Hollywood" began to crumble as the industry turned its eyes to potential blockbusters, but the 1980s were also the decade in which auteur-filmmakers were able to use their latest works of fiction to attack political discourse. Director Peter Weir examines the fallacy behind the seemingly "ideal nuclear family" by showing how miserable foxes really are in their communities. Not content to wait for his invention to be appreciated, Ellie takes out his anger on the "lazy" workers who waste his time. It's funny the kind of "guidance" he'd pass on to the kids in the scenes before they ventured into the jungle. Charlie learns that he can earn his father's respect by laughing at and criticizing others.
Although this would have been a chance Margot stands up against her husband's madness, and she has shrunk from responsibility to the extent that she pays little attention to the extent of the problem. Margot has learned to walk away from what is given to her, unaware that her husband's vague dreams of a trip to the bush will soon become their reality. It's fascinating to see someone as articulate as Mirren play such a detached character. Her ignorance makes the situation even more dire for Charlie and Jerry, as they realize that both their parents have lost their minds.
When the family ventures deep into the jungle and begins to face difficulties starting Ellie's "fat boy" ice-making plant, The Mosquito Coast inserts elements of dark comedy provided by talented screenwriter Paul Schrader. Allie is best at acting, but his inability to communicate his ideas ultimately leads to the failure of any potential projects for him. The situation is exacerbated when he tries to break down the language barrier and cast himself as some kind of messianic figure, lavishing his gifts. This is where we see Mirren Shifting into a more dynamic character as she begins to feel guilty for being such an ignorant American, putting her children's lives at risk, and marrying someone as irritable as Ellie. While Mirren doesn't try to evoke our sympathy through tearful monologues, she does succeed in getting us to understand her point of view.
The Mosquito Coast transitions from a social satire to a tense thriller in the third act, and it's clear that neither Ford nor Mirren will suddenly transform into the type of characters audiences expect them to play. Ford doesn't immediately display the Indiana Jones-like wit of keeping the family alive, and Mirren doesn't get the rage that makes Cook, Thief, Wife and Her Lover or Red so inspiring. Watching the actors and their characters fall apart allows the audience to invest their investment in the real hero of the story: Charlie. Charlie realizes that his parents' generation is promising a future they're not really ready for, and it's up to him and his brother to be the "responsible" people who can get them all out safely.
of "The Mosquito Coast" was so cynical, challenging and joyously nihilistic that it was a hard-to-market movie in 1986. Even with Ford and Mirren on board, the anti-capitalist commentary and bleak portrayal of the American Dream might turn off the average moviegoer. Apple TV+'s recent attempt to revamp the source material takes a decidedly more action-centric approach, akin to Ozark or Breaking Bad. It's a testament to the talents of Ford and Mirren that they were able to bring such a strange film to life, and it's good to know that, decades later, they're teaming up again to silence any doubters that remain.