Thursday, 20 March 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1986: Harrison Ford in The Mosquito Coast

Harrison Ford did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Allie Fox in The Mosquito Coast.

The Mosquito Coast is an interesting character study about a survivalist who tries to take his family out of modern society.

Peter Weir was the only director who managed to direct Harrison Ford to an Oscar nomination. Ford was nominated for Weir's Witness for a fairly prototypical Ford leading man style performance, a good enough performance but pretty standard performance from him. Ford worked once again with Weir for this film which came out only a year after witness. Ford was not Oscar nominated for this film despite this being a very against his usual type. Ford did find some recognition for it but he probably sunk by the film's tepid reception when it originally came out, and perhaps because Ford plays a character a little too far from his usual type since Ford's characters tend to be likable that is not the case for Allie Fox.

From the beginning of the film it is made abundantly clear that this is not action hero Harrison Ford. In his earliest scene all that Allie Fox does is basically bash the current state of America then proceed to harass a hardware employee for giving him a Japanese product rather than an American one. Ford's performance here perhaps shows how Hugh Jackman perhaps should have positioned himself in a similar role in Prisoners. Allie Fox is a survivalist and Ford shows this in an underlying intensity within Allie. Ford though doesn't overplay this aspect of Allie here though showing in the words he is speaking but not allowing the intensity to completely control his behavior. At this point Ford successfully allows one to think that Allie could easily be all bluster, but then again it might not be.

Harrison Ford brings a natural eccentricity to the role that does not completely cut you off from him early on as he tries to show off one of his inventions which while genius is not necessary in the modern society. Ford shows such an honest enthusiasm with the invention that he makes it actually makes him at least slightly easy to sympathize, but more importantly why his family would be so much behind him from the start of their journey. Ford in his best and most notable heroic performances as Han Solo and Indiana Jones managed to be tough with an undercurrent of humor and warmth. Ford once again here does use that natural warmth he is able to bring as Allie speaks to his family about his ideas. He may seem like a nut, but at least a nut who can at least get his family behind him.

Allie in his paranoia, and like Toshiro Mifune's character in I Live in Fear, insists a relocation must take place in order to survive the upcoming holocaust that he is absolutely sure will occur. Ford rather brilliantly subverts many of his usual qualities as an actor in use of Allie here. When he first locates to the jungle with his family and some others to create a self sustaining society Allie seems very much the capable leader. Ford in all of his best performances exudes command and charisma which he does here as well. Ford though does not play it as he would one of his heroes though, rather he put it in a very powerful personality he brings to Allie that is nothing like his other roles. Although the society does not become a cult, Ford in these earlier scenes suggests that Allie very well could have created one if he wished, which is appropriate to his early success in the project.

There is always a shroud Ford brings to his performance that is carefully played to suggest the narrow mindedness of Allie. There is a peculiar intensity he places in Allie. He is rather fascinating in the way he interacts with basically everyone else in the film. Ford even when he may technically be directly interacting with someone else that there is this distance to Allie. When he speaks he often seems to be speaking to himself in some way, and Ford creates a man with a true tunnel vision. In every scene Ford never creates a full chemistry with anyone, even in the way he physically interacts Ford suggests a certain dismissive quality in his interactions with others in his body language, which is essential to the development of Allie's downfall that takes for the rest of the film.

Allie actually seems to find perfect success in the jungle except that he really is not satisfied completely for no real reason, and later he finds a society tends to need things like the police for a reason. When these problems start to turn up what laid beneath the surface begins to arise in Ford's performance. As Allie slowly devolves into madness Ford is extremely good firstly because he properly hinted at the development beforehand, but just importantly he never overplayed his hand earlier. When the madness comes out Ford brings it out in such a natural and completely brutal way. His leadership becomes a dictatorship and any weakness, even from his children, he treats like betrayal. Ford is very chilling in these scenes because of how casually cruel Allie becomes and how he so disconcertingly loses the warmth that he did have earlier on.

In the late scenes of the film Ford does not shy away from being completely unlikable as Allie goes completely off the deep end in his treatment toward his family. What makes Ford's performance so good is that he technically keeps Allie on the exact same course he was from the beginning. It is still just all about his world view and survivalist ideas, yet developments have suggested that he is wrong. Ford rather than showing Allie reflect on any of these instead only shows the intensity grows as Allie basically must force himself to be even more fervent for his cause, as he becomes a desperate man who refuses to be proven wrong. The insanity Ford creates is palatable and always believable because from the moment we have seen him on screen he started building to the point he reaches at the end, giving a honest yet so horrible depiction of a man who refuses to lose his beliefs.

Watching this film again after so many years made me remember more clearly the circumstances of my original viewing, which was actually probably less than half of the film. Anyway even though I knew what it was about when I caught up with a review of the film I was surprised that Harrison Ford actually played the lead, because only seeing the second half I had not at all recognized him. That is one of the strengths of this performance though because Ford does disappear so effectively into Allie Fox. This could have easily been De-glamorization just for the sake of the shock of it, but no you forget about that pretty quickly as Ford becomes Allie. It is a shame that this film failed both critically and commercially as Ford takes this challenge of Allie Fox and gives a great portrait narrow minded madness. All I can wonder if this had been more of a success perhaps Ford would have continued to challenge himself rather than take the path he did take which was to slowly give lazier and less interesting performances in action movies.

22 comments:

luke higham said...

louis: ratings & thoughts on the cast.

Fisti said...

SPOT-ON!

He's fantastic in this. In fact, the whole cast is. Mirren and Phoenix were also VERY good, especially Mirren who could have so easily been a caricature but she feels so human and layered.

RatedRStar said...

I agree with you on him in Coast, but not in Witness, I think, especially his final scenes, and more specificly his scene when he screams ENOUGH and almost crys is something he rarely does, plus his chemistry with McGillis and Haas is great.

mcofra7 said...

1. Oldman
2. Ford
3. Goldblum
4. Hackman
5. Irons

Anonymous said...

Some quick questions:

Is Gary Oldman in your top 10 actors list?

Also thoughts/ratings on the following performances,

Michael Jeter in The Green Mile

Kurtwood Smith in Robocop

Any actor who got above 4 in the ensembles of Black Hawk Down

mcofra7 said...

Louis: Thoughts on Charles Bronson in Once Upon a Time in the West
I'm guessing you gave him a 4.5?

Anonymous said...

May I have your thoughts/rating on Amy Ryan in "Gone Baby Gone"?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Please tell me Goldblum's up next. Also, if this turns into another Fight Club fiasco, God help you. *points dramatically*

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Phoenix - 4(Solid as per usual. He's good in the quiet role as the sane son who reflects sanity in the situation while always keeping a believable sense of loyalty natural to a son for a father)

Mirren - 4(Mirren does a lot between the lines as the wife is mostly a reactive role. The wife following wife never feels forced by Mirren as she makes you see an actual woman there who is basically trapped by circumstance)

Roberts - 3(He's very limited but he makes his role a likable source of sanity within the proceedings)

Gregory - 2(From what I have seen from his days as a character actor it seems he was best when he was having dinner with Wallace Shawn. Just like in Street Smart Gregory really overplays his role)

Anonymous:

Oldman is not quite in my top ten, but he's close.

Jeter - 4(A very moving performance that is really is equal to Duncan's in poignancy since the film cheats by not really going to deep into the details of his crimes)

Smith - 4.5(Wildly entertaining performance as he has so much fun as a pretty uncouth villain. Smith does not downplay that fact and instead brilliantly revels in it)

All of the Black Hawk Down boys are basically a collective 3.5. Watching the film, with only a few exceptions in the negative since, I thought did exactly what they needed to for the film adding just enough, but never past that as Scott's direction was the overwhelming factor of that film.

Ryan - 4.5(She makes the hypocritical nature of her character painfully believable by effectively showing the sleazy qualities of her character as well the honest if questionable motherly love)

mcofra7:

Bronson - 4.5(Very strong for the most of it in being the dead pan hero, and he has great chemistry with Robards in their scenes together. His final scene with Fonda is surprisingly powerful as he silently expresses just what the final duel means to him)

Kevin said...

Hey Louis, what are your ratings and thoughts on the supporting cast of Brazil, as well as for Liam Neeson in Taken and Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell in Defiance?

luke higham said...

Louis: Since I think Ford will get a 4.5 for Last Crusade, I would like to ask on what is his best performance. This or Raiders of the Lost Ark.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Hey Louis, I have an idea. Once we officially "wrap up" the Alternate years, why don't look for performances you haven't seen/ranked yet and have "bonus rounds" The picked 5 don't even have to be from the same year. We just try and guess how you'd rank them.

RatedRStar said...

or better yet, do the hong kong film awards best actor and best supporting actor =D, lets face it that's probably the most competitive award race.

Anonymous said...

Off topic Louis, you mentioned the good performances from Game Of Thrones, what would you say were the performances that you dont really like from the main cast from each season.

luke higham said...

Koook160: that's a perfect idea.

Louis: after the alternative lists, can you make two seperates lists below the my nominations page.

The first is to include female performances that are rated either a 4.5 or 5.

The Second is to make a top 100 actors list & rank, as well as the rating for all of their performances that you have seen from Best to Worst.

For Example, say Michael Fassbender is ranked *30
1. 12 Years A Slave (5)
2. Hunger (5)
3. Shame (5)
4. X-Men First Class (4)
5. Prometheus (4)
6. The Counselor (3.5)
7. A Dangerous Method (3.5)
8. 300 (3)

Michael Patison said...

Anonymous: When did he talk about the performances from Game of Thrones he liked? I know I have in the past but I haven't seen Louis do the same. Have I just missed it?

Louis Morgan said...

Kevin:

Brazil:

Palin - 4.5(All of the supporting players are cogs for Gilliam's vision, and Palin is the cog the stands out the most. He's very effective in being the most pleasant government worker, but with a psychotic intensity underneath)

De Niro - 4(It's pretty enjoyable to see him just having quite a bit of fun with his performance, which works perfectly for his character who is just having fun messing with the state)

Vaughan - 4(He's very good in being the kindly mentor who slowly reveals himself to not be so kindly when he means business)

Hoskins - 3.5(Simple but he's enjoyable in being a loud and rather angry worker)

Holm - 3.5(Technically probably one of the warmer performances in the film and Holm nicely handles the representation of one of the less severe aspects of the system)

Broadbent - 3(There just for a few insane faces, but he does this memorably)

Craig - 3.5(I found him appropriately passionate and devoted in the role. It's far from his best but I found it solid enough work from him)

Schrieber - 4(He owns the film and I wish it had followed his character most closely. Schrieber simply gives the fiercest most intense performance in the film, and really brings the conflict and situation alive through his presence)

Bell - 3(He's enthusiastic and perfectly fine here, but that's it)

Neeson - 3.5(Neeson makes for strong action hero and he knows how to deliver his lines with a real dramatic weight no matter what the situation)

Luke: I'll say this today, but I may say Raiders tomorrow.

I'll certainly try to add those lists.

Robert: That's a good idea.

Anonymous: Michael Patison named the performances not me.

Michael Patison said...

Anonymous: Louis just confirmed what I thought. If you want me to talk about the performances I wasn't so fond of I will, but I won't unless you ask just because I have other things to do.

I will say, though, that I've now finished the season, and my season 3 MVP is Charles Dance.

luke higham said...

Michael Patison: What were your thoughts on the Red Wedding Episode.

Michael Patison said...

I thought it was expertly handled and should've won the Writing (or Directing I can't remember which but it deserved both, though a rewatch of Gliding Over All could change that) Emmy it was nominated for last year. I'll leave it at that so as not to spoil anything for people who watch it in the future.

I will say though that Charles Dance's scene regarding the Red Wedding at the beginning of Mhysa is what cemented him as my season MVP.

Anonymous said...

oh sorry lol Michael, ill ask then which performances didnt you like from the main cast (from all the seasons)

Michael Patison said...

For season 1:
I really don't have anybody. Mark Addy is a major blow-hard and I found him terribly annoying, but I think my biggest issue was the writing of his and Sean Bean's relationship.

Jack Gleeson is completely annoying throughout the three seasons, which means he completely succeeds though I still hate him. I guess my issue is that hi don't know whether he's annoying because his portrayal is annoying or because he makes the character so annoying.

Harry Lloyd is TERRIBLE. I wanted his character to die while reading the first book, but I wanted his portrayal to die too while watching the show.

Season 2:
Robert Pugh is kind of absurd in his few appearances.

There wasn't really anybody major this season I haven't already talked about already. This was the weakest season I'd say just because the story wasn't as compelling.

Season 3:
Aidan Gillen, who I liked mostly in the 1st two seasons, gets less screentime and tries to steal every ounce of screentime he has and ends up overplaying his scenes.

John Bradley is not bad, but in both this and season 3, he seems to be giving two performances: one that is properly impassioned (see his speech near the end of season 3) or absurdly awkward (most of his scenes, especially season 3). He's actually quite good at underplaying his character's awkwardness in season 2, but once he encounters the opposite sex he mostly overplays it.

Iwan Rheon completely overplays his role and is simply a villain. I think he could've been absolutely bone-chilling if he had played it down and made his insanity more repressed.


Unrelated to this list, I'll add that in addition to the performances I've already mentioned as liking in season 3 in previous posts, I also enjoyed Liam Cunningham and Gwendoline Christie quite a bit.