Is Harrison Ford’s best acting performance in Star Wars or Indiana Jones? Working Girl, you say? “Wrong!” says John McLaughlin. The answer, says Mike, is The Mosquito Coast, a 1986 movie about an obsessed inventor who tries to build a perfect world in the jungle with an ice machine. It’s not a comedy. It’s one of the darkest movies you’ll ever see, because it shows what happens when we try to build a world without God in the equation.
Fed up with the United States, Allie Fox (Ford) takes his family and five children (Helen Mirren as his wife and River Phoenix as their older son) to Nicaragua, where he thinks he will create a perfect civilization in the heart of darkness. “Everything we need is here,” he says. “Right here. We can live simply: gardening, beach combing. I’m a changed man, mother. No more chemicals or poisons. If what you want isn’t washed up on this beach, you probably don’t need it.” He builds his family a house that is better than Tarzan’s, leads the natives in making a gigantic ice-making machine that will improve their quality of life, and mocks the missioner who believes in God. Will Fox’s brilliance bring his family and neighbors together, or will his arrogance tear them apart?
Allie Fox is Thoreau, Fitzcarraldo, and Faust rolled into one. No wonder. The movie is from a novel by Paul Theroux (Jungle Lovers), was written by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver), and directed by Peter Weir (Master and Commander). Ford is so deep into his character that we want him to succeed, even as we, along with everyone else, grow to fear him and root for his family to get away before his world crushes all of them. If you like the novels of Graham Greene and movies like At Play in the Fields of the Lord, let me tell you, you will find much to excite you and to think about in The Mosquito Coast.
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