'The Edge' pits two men against the harsh Alaskan wilderness after a freak airplane accident leaves them stranded. If ever there was a time to need Bear Grylls, this would be it.
Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins) is a famous billionaire who has come up to Alaska at the behest of his wife and friends to tag along on his wife's photo shoot. Robert Green (Alec Baldwin) is the cocky young photographer, snapping the photos.
Charles is a well read, but reserved self-made man. You never get the feeling he's eccentric or boastful of his position in life. He's shy, but confident. He's married to a young supermodel played by Elle Macpherson, which is as eccentric as he gets.
Robert is jealous of Charles, his position and his money. We also get the feeling that Robert covets Charles' wife too. Much is made of the fortune Charles has amassed, but he never once mentions it. He's more at home in books about any subject. It's a good thing he's been reading up on how to survive in the wild.
Once they become stranded in the wilderness, Charles and Robert must battle the elements, and the raw forces of nature. They must also combat their own self doubts. "You know, I once read an interesting book which said that, uh, most people lost in the wilds, they, they die of shame," says Charles. Giving up is the easiest thing to do. He's right.
Screenwriter David Mamet ('The Spanish Prisoner,' 'The Untouchables') and director Lee Tamahori ('Die Another Day,' 'Next' -- Please don't hold those monstrosities against this, his best film.) do a skillful job developing tension between the two men, even during the times in which they must work together. Their conversations are always a little off kilter. Whenever Robert talks to Charles you get the feeling he's planning something sinister.
With his book smarts, and the personality traits that no doubt lead to his career success, Charles is mostly calm and collected as he tries to navigate back to civilization. He fashions spears out of branches, and even makes a compass from a paper clip. Robert on the other hand, is skeptical of just about everything, but needs Charles to help him get out.
'The Edge' has some very intense scenes, most of them involving a ferocious man-eating bear. Like a big, hairy shark, the bear smells human blood from miles around and seems to always be hungry. It's nice to see a film that isn't full of CG animation when it comes to the big action set pieces. The Alaskan wilderness is a harsh but beautiful backdrop to some very emotional, edge-of-your-seat scenes. Action here never feels fake (except for what causes the plane crash). It feels genuinely real, like Anthony Hopkins actually had a bear standing directly over him, instead of it being inserted later with computers. This adds a sense of realism that is so often missing in the films we see today.
Mamet is able to craft a reasonably thought-provoking character study from what essentially is a generic survival genre film. His dialogue is at times tongue-in-cheek, and other times very raw. Hopkins and Baldwin make it work too. They're fantastic here as two rivals who must work together if they have any hope of surviving. 'The Edge' is a solid catalog release.
Already this is an upgrade of huge proportions, as 'The Edge' on DVD suffered from a non-anamorphic transfer. The Blu-ray features a 1080p transfer, framed at 2.35:1. First things first, one of the biggest characters in the movie is the Alaskan wilderness, and this transfer depicts it with bleakness and beauty. The whites of the snow covered mountains never feel overly blown out, the lush greens of the dense pine forests is always crisp. Blacks are nicely toned, with only a few soft shots that take on flatness.
Source noise does crop up occasionally, especially in the flying scenes. Some of the more notable green screen effects, as when the plane flies into the flock of birds, look really fake. Fine detail during close ups on faces (even the bear's face) look magnificent. The detail really jumps off the screen. I remember watching this on DVD, and it had nowhere near the detail we see here. Distracting edge enhancement is nowhere to found. Overall 'The Edge' looks great for a catalog title, and should please fans of the movie who were burned by the DVD presentation.
After I was finished watching 'The Edge' my wife walked downstairs and said, "That was a loud movie." Indeed it is.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track supplied here is a bombastic thrill ride full of deep bear growls and bone crushing plane crashes. Its sound effects are ramped up, but never sound forced or unnatural. Helicopters flying from one side of the screen to the other, swoop through each channel seamlessly. Jerry Goldsmith's original music fills the room with majesty during the flying scenes, and dread during the action scenes. Voices are clearly defined up front and never waiver. Bart the Bear's growl may catch you off guard, as it bursts through the front channels.
Even more subtle sounds like rain falling, are clearly recognizable through the rear speakers, creating the effect of actually being in the middle of a rainstorm. The ambiance here is one of the film's very best qualities. The Alaskan wilderness is alive, whether its howling winds whipping around our heads or twigs cracking under the weight of a huge bear, we always feel like we are in the center of the action. This is a great track!
'The Edge' is a welcome addition to the survival genre, mixing clever dialogue and sharp character studies, with some very intense action scenes. Hopkins and Baldwin are a perfect duo. It's a fun, exciting, and thought-provoking film. Fox has given 'The Edge' a proper upgrade from the DVD's non-anamorphic release and has thrown in a truly engaging and jolting soundtrack. Sadly, we are left with not one special feature of consequence, but even with that, this title comes recommended.