Several genres meet at The Edge. At it’s core, it’s a thriller, yet it also has elements of a buddy movie, a wilderness adventure, a monster movie and a character drama. Director Lee Tamahori stitches together all these disparate elements into a cohesive, thoughful and exciting thriller.
Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins) is a reclusive billionaire who does most of his living through books. He has a photographic memory, and a lifetime of reading has filled his brain with useless facts. His supermodel wife, Mickey (Elle Macpherson), persuades him to join her on a photo shoot in Alaska. He’s never been on an adventure, so he reluctantly agrees.
Charles has suspicions about his wife. Her relationship with photographer Bob Green (Alec Baldwin) seems more than friendly. Bob is naturally jealous of Charles’ money, and Charles believes the two are secretly scheming to have him killed.
However, before their differences can be settled, a plane carrying Charles, Bob, and his assistant, Stephen (Harold Perrineau), crash lands in the remote wilderness. Now, the rivals are forced to survive by their wits against the brutal forces of nature.
The action in The Edge is not overwhelming, but it is well used. Perhaps because you are not numb to it, the thrills of the action sequences seem to strike deeper to the bone.
The dialogue in the film is well written (in a rare outdoor excursion by David Mamet). The characters actually talk about things, rather than occasionally blurting out something in monosyllabic grunts.
Anthony Hopkins does a terrific job in an atypical role. Having his character be a bookworm was a nice touch, and I applaud the filmmakers for not having every insignificant fact he spouts somehow important to the resolution of the plot. It’s a character trait, and, although it is a helpful one, it never devolves into a mere plot device.
Alec Baldwin has a lesser role than Hopkins, and is outshone in the acting department by his colleague. However, he brings a necessary edge (no pun intended) to the role of Charles’ rival, who can’t cope with the fact that Charles is better than him (in multiple ways).
Beyond the two main characters, however, everyone else is exceedingly flimsy. Mickey is merely an object of contention between the two men, and Stephen’s only purpose seems to be to wear a red shirt. Virtually none of the other characters has any development at all. (However, I have to give credit to Bart the Bear…he does a great job in a thankless part).
Though a well crafted thriller with good dialogue, The Edge does have its faults. There are occassional slips here and there in the screenplay where things are forgotten, or characters act stupidly in order to advance the plot. But, luckily, they’re the exception, not the rule. More thrillers need to learn from The Edge.