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Life on La Mosquitia – Chronicles of the Fox Family
golem317 October 2005
Mosquito Coast is one of the best books I have ever read, and the movie does super well to do justice to that novel. It is also one of Harrison Ford's best character roles; the eccentricity and opinionated genius of Allie is done to perfection by him. Peter Weir's brilliant direction is to be expected considering his other masterpieces – Fearless, also based on an excellent book of the same name, is one of the best movies yet. His films (Truman Show, Green Card, and Witness come to mind) tend to chronicle troubles and eccentric characters to go out on a limb, literally.

The narration is carefully done, only enough voice-overs to explain the philosophical implications and underpinnings of the characters' thoughts and actions. There are, of course, some mysterious elements to how things happen, which can only be remedied by reading Theroux's book of the same name.

Taking a very Robinson Crusoe-esquire piece of fiction and putting it to film is not an easy process. In fact, this is the kind of novel that can be very easily messed up by the movies with strong action and adventure type Hollywood direction. Luckily, Weir has done an excellent job portraying the characters – not so much the plot – of those who will come to inhabit The Mosquito Coast. In short, not only is Mosquito Coast a film to watch, it should be required.

RATING: 10/10 "We eat when we're not hungry, drink when we're not thirsty. We buy what we don't need and throw away everything that's useful. Why sell a man what he wants? Sell him what he doesn't need. Pretend he's got eight legs and two stomachs and money to burn. It's wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong."
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The Iceman Cometh
Lechuguilla23 August 2010
Frothing at the mouth with disgust for his homeland America, inventor Allie Fox (Harrison Ford), with family in tow, pulls up roots, and moves to Central America. Here, he proceeds to build a new life in the jungle, using his mechanical skills, his inventiveness, and in particular his patented machine, which produces ice, sans electricity. "Ice is civilization", he proclaims with unctuous authority. That will be the foundation for his utopian dream. But Allie is so headstrong, so convinced of his infallibility that his vision blinds him to reality. And the film's ending is poignant.

Delusion and self-deception breed nightmarish outcomes. And the cinema, through the years, has dramatized these themes quite well, in films like "Aguirre: The Wrath Of God", "Fitzcaraldo", and "Deliverance". In real life, delusion and self-deception were the basis for the events surrounding American preacher Jim Jones who, in the late 1970s, relocated his naive flock to the jungles of Guyana, whereupon he established Jonestown, envisioned as a religious utopia. The result was tragic.

Beyond the deep themes thus expressed in the script, "The Mosquito Coast" looks good visually. The tropical scenery is spectacular. Production design and cinematography are terrific. And the film's score, by Maurice Jarre, is wonderfully exotic and majestic.

My only complaint is the character of Allie Fox, who at some point badmouths just about everyone and everything. I could have wished for a quieter, less loquacious, madman. Then too, Harrison Ford plays Fox in a way that overrides subtext. In short, Fox not only is delusional and self-deceptive, he's also preachy, domineering, and totally lacking in compassion for others, someone whom we as viewers cannot root for or have any empathy with.

"The Mosquito Coast" reminds us that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Chasing that elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is for dreamers. This is a good film to watch when you're facing a pile of problems. You could be like Allie's family, trying to forge some existence in the jungles and listening to the rants of an icy madman.
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A classic of the 1980's
millennia-230 August 2000
I can almost guarantee that anyone who has seen 'The Mosquito Coast', then looked at the subject line of this review, thinks I'm crazy. The truth is that this film is deeply flawed and undeniably weak in many regards, but it had a quality I cannot describe. This is the only film I have ever seen that, despite many shortcomings, manages to come out of the storm relatively unscathed, and become an unforgettable, almost haunting, movie.

The production values are immaculate. Peter Weir's direction is excellent, and is in top form here. He has crafted a thick shell that blocks the flaws from coming up to the surface, an indescribable feat that very few directors have accomplished. The musical score is good, not outstanding, but it's fitting, and surprisingly subtle. There is only about six minutes out of the entire film that has musical accompaniment, which makes for a very unique experience, and not necessarily a bad one. The tropical cinematography is dazzling, and the decision to shoot on location in Belize instead of on a studio back lot really paid off, contributing greatly to the film's success.

As good as the mentioned characteristics are, nothing is as good as the acting, especially that from the two leads: Harrison Ford and River Phoenix. Prior to this, Ford had made a name for himself with big budget action roles, with several failed attempts at drama (Hanover Street being the best example of that). It wasn't until 1985's 'Witness' (which Peter Weir also directed, that Ford was taken seriously as an all around actor. Personally I think Ford's performance here greatly overshadowed his work in 'Witness', and is a career best for him, even in the light of 'Regarding Henry' and 'Presumed Innocent', both made after his. He takes the character of Allie Fox, and moulds him into a selfish, driving maniac, blind to the wishes of others, only caring for himself. Phoenix, on the other hand, deserves even more acclaim, for several reasons. For one, this was only his third film, after 1985's 'Explorers', and 'Stand by Me', made right before this. Secondly, he was only 15 at the time of the shoot, and had little acting experience, yet he easily out acted most of his co-stars. Though his performance wasn't quite as refined as Ford's was, he still reached a level of near perfection and set the stage for a glorious, and ultimately tragic, career.

The story is one of utter genius, one of the few original ones popping up in an industry full of sequels, remakes and rip offs. Based on the 1981 bestseller by Paul Theroux, and co-starring Helen Mirren, 'The Mosquito Coast' deserves a place among the best films of the 80's.

But wait, I'm not done. Despite a great exterior, deep inside the movie is troubled. It's as if director Weir pushed all the movie's problems deep down under the surface, then piled layer after layer of... something, on top of it, hiding them from the clueless audience. My main problem with the movie is that it yearns to break away from it's literary roots, a problem that could've been easily avoided had the right script come along. Entire conversations are lifted from the text, and there isn't a single line that doesn't have an equal counterpart in the novel. For me this got extremely tedious as, hours before popping in the tape for a second viewing, I had finished the book, and the two are much too similar.

Another problem I have with it is that the scenes are much too short, with none of them running over about a minute and a half. An obvious result of this is that many subplots remain unresolved, and several concepts are hinted at, but go without further explanation, making for a confusing story. If the screenwriter had put a little more effort into making the film different than the book, with new scenes, we would have seen a much better end product.

A third, albeit a smaller one, is that the production team apparently spent too much time making sure that the movie would get a PG rating, though it would've been much better had it gotten an R, or even a PG-13 rating. That would've allowed Ford a little more breathing room to tweak his character, possibly allowing Allie to become less sympathetic, more of a madman.

I can't think of much more worth saying to put in this review, so I'll end it with this note: see the movie, even if you've read the book, but don't do the two back to back.
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Excellently crafted - painful to watch
rollo_tomaso24 June 2001
Some of the other reviews summarize this pretty well. The Mosquito Coast details flawlessly the grotesque decomposition of a good and true man. Harrison Ford's Allie is driven insane by his own intelligence and inability to control his ego. Even more remarkable and disquieting is the fact that this is based on a true story. In some ways, Allie reminds me of Dr. Mobius from Forbidden Planet. But the demons Allie conjures up are far more grotesque and deadly than anything from even Mobius' warped imagination. I conclude that this is a true piece of art and science -- magnificently crafted from beginning to end -- and I will NEVER voluntarily watch it again.
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Insightful Drama From Peter Weir
jhclues20 May 2002
Someone once said that ignorance is bliss; and if you follow through the reasoning process that leads to that conclusion, you discover that it is, indeed, true. Another way of saying it would be, that the less you know, the happier you are likely to be; kind of a `what you don't know can't hurt you' perspective, but true, nevertheless. Conversely then, what can be said about knowledge? About knowing too much? Can genius, for example, be equated with a life of torment? Can knowing-- and more precisely, understanding-- too much bring about anguish and unhappiness? The answer to that , of course, cannot be absolute, for there are a number of variables that must first be factored in, one of the most prevalent being that thin line that separates the true genius from madness, and how close to which side of that line the individual in question resides. It's a situation examined in depth by director Peter Weir, in his riveting, thought provoking drama, `The Mosquito Coast,' starring Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren and River Phoenix.

Allie Fox (Ford) is a family man; he has a devoted wife, `Mother (Mirren),' and four children, the eldest of whom, Charlie (Phoenix), thinks his dad is a genius. Which he is. Allie Fox is an inventor who believes it's man's job to tinker with an unfinished world and make it work. He is also a true individual, the epitome of the man who marches to his own drum-- and in his case, his drum is the `only' one he will march to. He sees such potential in everything around him, but he also sees that very same potential being wasted at every turn by seemingly everyone, from the average guy just trying to make a living, to a Corporate America he sees as the impetus that has already begun to destroy the nation. All around him he sees a country and a people that has lost that spirit that made America strong; he sees ruin and decay in everything: In the lack of quality in any and all manufactured goods, and in the apathy of the acquiescent consumer. And he's had enough. Refusing to stand by and watch America die, he packs up and moves his family to a remote section of a jungle in Central America, near the coast of La Moskitia; and it is there that he discovers a land, that to him, is paradise-- and where he also encounters the demons that plague those who know too much, and feel too deeply.

Working from an intelligent and penetrating screenplay by Paul Schrader (adapted from the novel by Paul Theroux), Weir delivers a thoroughly engrossing character study that parallels Werner Herzog's 1972 masterpiece, `Aguirre, The Wrath of God,' inasmuch as it examines the effects of self-perceived omnipotence in an individual driven to extreme measures by a singular quest for power and autonomy (albeit in different times and with different motives). Allie Fox, like Don Lope de Aguirre, becomes a victim of his own obsession, consequently victimizing those around him, as well, by losing sight of his own ideals and getting swept away in the current of a distorted sense of purpose. Allie leaves an environment he perceives as defective for one that is ultimately equally flawed-- that being the environs within his own mind. All of which is hauntingly presented by Weir, aided by John Seale and Maurice Jarre, whose cinematography and score, respectively, helps to create the atmosphere that so effectively underscores the drama of the story.

As Allie Fox, Harrison Ford gives a performance that is one of his best and most powerful ever, affecting a commanding presence that dominates virtually every scene-- so compelling that his presence is felt even when he is absent from the screen. This isn't a character you are going to like, necessarily; and yet you are going to care about him, because there's something in him that reflects and addresses concerns that are universal, which makes Allie someone to whom many in the audience will be able to relate and identify. He's the man who believes that he truly `can' be an island unto himself, and beyond his personal peccadilloes, that is the kind of strength that demands admiration; for at the same time, it enables forgiveness. It's a solid portrayal of a man at cross purposes with himself, who realizes to some extent what he is doing, yet adamantly refuses to back down. And this is the man Ford brings to life so vividly; he's convincing, and his Allie Fox is disconcertingly real.

Helen Mirren also turns in a memorable performance as Allie's devoted wife, whom he calls `Mother.' Mirren says more without dialogue-- through a subtle expression, or even the merest glance-- than most actors do with a limitless number of words. And it's her moments of silence that are some of the most telling of the film, while at the same time adding strength to the lines she does recite. In the end, Mirren creates a character who chooses her words well, then uses them wisely-- and it's a portrayal that is, without question, one of the strengths of the film. In the way Mother looks at Allie, Mirren conveys that love and absolute loyalty that makes everything they do believable. There is complete trust there, which you can feel when, standing in her kitchen, for example, she gives a final glance at the dishes piled high in the sink; a glance at the life she's leaving behind to follow her husband. And she's happy. In it's simplicity and brevity, it's a powerful scene that says so much about who she is, and who `they' are. And Mirren makes it work beautifully.

Phoenix does a solid job, too, providing the narrative of the film as Charlie. He is perfectly cast as Ford's son, and he succeeds in giving `The Mosquito Coast' that sense of reflection and perspective that makes it a truly memorable, and emotionally involving, film. 9/10.
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Anti hero falls short of redemption
Davidon807 March 2006
With much of Harrison Ford's career during the eighties dominated by his participation in George Lucas and Spielberg blockbusters, it comes as a relief to discover that in between his numerous flights on the Milennium Falcon and slashing his whip he found time to star in many low key movies. Among these hidden treasures is The Mosquito Coast, a character driven story about one mans attempt to recreate an Eden in a faraway land. And his secret to survival? Ice.

This is an interesting movie, not only because it has an all star cast, that includes River Phoenix, but because we see Harrison Ford give his all to creating a character that is multi dimensional. He is an idealist and has the best intentions, yet is doomed to failure as the viewer senses an impeding violent side to his vision which will come to destroy him.

As a movie this is a good study of man's attempt to act upon his dreams, as a lighthearted pop corn flick this will annoy the average mainstream cinema goer. Simply put, many people will find it hard to imagine Harrison Ford as anything else other than the super hero incarnation of Indiana Jones, and multi faceted anti heroes that never see the errors of their ways is a genre of cinema that Hollywood hasn't quite got their head around yet.

For everybody else who would like to see a movie that has depth, great acting and a solid script, this will be excellent viewing.
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A chilling and prophetic film...
ps2cansuckass8 March 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Most of the others that took the time to comment on this film would seem to agree on a certain point: that this movie sticks in your mind. It is not simply a night spent with a videotape. It is an experience in emotional extremism and moral inquisition. The central motive of this movie is to send a wake up call and point out that the world we live in has been doomed since the dawn of civilization. This movie is a doomsday prophecy.

Harrison Ford heads an enormously talented cast that is the both the perfect model and the antithesis of a working family. Ford plays Allie Fox, an American inventor who moves his family into the jungles of a Carribean Island paradise. His story, the story narrated by his oldest son (River Phoenix), is a gut wrenching, heart pounding tale that is marvellously captured by the actors that he presides over with his token cynicism and quick, sharp wit. Ford's Allie leaves America to begin anew in a world that has not yet been developed or corrupted by a modern society wraught with materialism and blind faith. What he does not understand is that his ambitions will only lead to the creation of a new society that is almost certainly a micro-carbon copy of the archetype that he wishes to escape. Pollution, violence, religous meddling all have their place in Allie's world, but he refuses to aknowledge to himself and to the people that he presides over that he has set off a chain of events that parellel the advancement and decline of every civilization since the beggining of time. When disaster strikes and he is forced to take actions that would've seemed inhuman to him early on in the story, he begins a writhing and painful decension into madness as his world slowly crumbles and the "better life" that he had hoped to sustain turns on him. As skepticism begins to creep into the minds of his family, he forces them into a life of desperation; a day to day routine of survival that ends in tragedy. The movie is shot beatifully. The camera captures moments of frightening irony that simple acting could never touch. The jungle scenes intially offer hope but transform into tragedy. The beach and river scenes capture the actors in full form as the tension grows, swells, and explodes.

In fact, if there's anything that the film did wrong it was to rely almost solely on symbolism to convey the rich and powerful theme of the story. The average movieogoer is so used to blockbusters and movies that are about as deep as a tablespoon will most likely find the movie confusing. Religous watchers will probably find offense in the portrayl of a selfish and ethnocentric missionary that does not neccesarilly put down religon but rather offers a manifestation of evidence: in times of tragedy, society seeks a higher source of wisdom beyond the physical plane of reality. This movie should not be watched only once. It should be carefully scrutinized so that viewers may be fully immersed in the meaning and take the powerful message to heart.
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Goodbye America and have a nice day!
Spikeopath8 June 2012
The Mosquito Coast is directed by Peter Weir and adapted to screenplay by Paul Schrader from the novel of the same name written by Paul Theroux. it stars Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, River Phoenix, Conrad Roberts and Andre Gregory. Music is scored by Maurice Jarre and cinematography by John Searle. Story sees Ford as Allie Fox, an inventor who has grown tired of what he sees as the disintegration of America. With his family in tow, Allie heads for what he hopes to be a happier life in the jungles of Central America. Building a self sufficient utopia, things start swimmingly, but can it last? Where does Allie's ambition end?

I have never read the novel, but I have it on good authority that it's cracker-jack stuff. Viewing this brilliant film, I regret not having indulged in the source material first. With that out the way, I can say that Peter Weir's film held me in an vice like grip throughout, it proved to be utterly compelling and beautiful to look at, yet as Allie Fox's ambitions and mindset begin to alter, a bleakness hones in to view and looms large over the picture. Propelled by a quite excellent performance by Ford, his own personal favourite and a film he stands strong in support of, film asks questions of man's place in the imperfect world, idealism and religious fervour; both pro and con. It's a bold and intelligent screenplay by Schrader, which only falters slightly with a mixed message come the denouement. Away from Ford and Searle's sharp photography, Phoenix and Mirren provide very strong support and Weir, a most undervalued director, paces it with his customary slow burn precision.

A hidden gem of the 80s and on Ford's CV, The Mosquito Coast is the kind of adult cinema we could do with more of these days. 9/10
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Star Vehicle Runs Out Of Gas
slokes5 February 2005
You can watch "The Mosquito Coast" and think of how cruelly the world tends to treat idealists. Or you can think how cruelly Hollywood tends to treat literature. It's true either way.

Harrison Ford stars as an inventor named Allie Fox, who leads his wife and four young children into the wilds of Central America (Belize here, Honduras in the novel) to get away from Western civilization, where people eat too much of the wrong things, anesthetize themselves with cheap entertainment, and are lulled to sleep by the falsities of materialism and Christianity.

Allie is better than that, of course, and so he plunges himself and his family into a jungle clearing beside a river. There they create a rustic utopia they can call their own, complete with a giant ice machine that works from internal combustion fueled by ammonia hydroxide. For a while they enjoy the simple life, complete with air conditioning and pedal-powered laundry machine. But paradise can be easier to attain than it is to maintain.

Ford obviously wanted to sink his teeth into some deeper material after the success he had in so many popcorn classics. He was coming off his best performance, in "Witness," and took that film's director Peter Weir along for the river run. You have to give Ford credit for seeking such challenges at the apex of a profitable career, and he does a good job with the character in the script. But the script presents more of a star vehicle for Ford's ambitions than anything worth viewing on its own merits.

It's funny that reviewers like Roger Ebert slammed this movie when it came out because Ford's character was unbearable. Allie Fox in the novel is unbearable, which is why the book is so good. He pushes and pushes his family and punishes them for their devotion. Even before making landfall in Central America, he goads his oldest son, Charlie, to climb a ship's mast and swing from the rigging. He rags on Charlie constantly, without reason, and is a thorough misanthrope, albeit often compelling as portrayed in the novel by Charlie's narration and author Paul Theroux.

But Fox in the movie is not so unbearable. We see Fox and his son, played by River Phoenix, share laughs and backslaps. He hugs and jokes with his wife, "Mother," played by Helen Mirren. Fox in the book is a dark man who spews insults at people, or makes loaded comments and then excuses himself with a terse "Just kidding." Ford imbues him with a sense of humor, an air of reasonableness, and squares off with antagonists who are truly nasty rather than ambiguous targets of Fox's hostility.

Ford maintains Fox's sense of idealistic contempt with Western civilization, and has fun with the many rants Fox throws up. A nice scene shows him going on about something as he starts a chainsaw, continuing to talk as the saw's roar drowns him out and not noticing. But a lot of the time Ford presents us with a beautiful dreamer, and the central idea of the story, that Fox is quite a dangerous man, is lost.

The result is a picture that lacks something the novel has, a sense of depth that gives perspective to the suffering we witness. The story in the book is Charlie's discovery of his father's selfish, dangerous heart. In the movie, it's more like: Why do bad things happen to courageous idealists? After a while, you start to glaze over from it all, and "Mosquito Coast" becomes an ordeal without a point.
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Good film- superb acting all around, but I wish it had a slightly different angle
BSideleau13 April 2008
Harrison Ford is brilliant in this film, as is the rest of the cast, and I am a big fan of this sort of film that explores the human psyche. I, however, wish the film spent just as much time showing the Missionaries evils and maniacal religious B.S. as it did painting Ford's character as a dangerous megalomaniac. I disagree with many of Ford's characters decisions over the course of the film...and in the long run he ends up becoming exactly what he set out to destroy, but his ideas on America are SPOT ON (and are just as relevant today) and it goes without saying that his errors are paled in comparison to what Christian missionaries have done through the brainwashing of the 3rd world people. My point is that Ford's character's plans were ill-conceived and nutty, but the world he left was just as insane.
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Muddled message
dnroth10 May 1999
Warning: Spoilers
Although this movie is intriguing, it leaves one wondering about what exactly it is driving at. The answer to why the world is endless at the end of the movie seems to have too many conflictual answers. Could it be because Allie's ideals are too narrow? Is America the endless world (where the Foxes were returning to), and therefore Allie really off the mark? Was Allie a hypocrite (establishing his own religion and relying on technology as a last resort)? Did Allie actually think of himself as a type of god? Too many questions arise at the end of the movie.

The lengthy criticisms of Allie seem to be the author screaming out his opinion as well. The criticisms could have been shortened a tad and Allie's actions could have expressed the opinion of the author in a deeper manner.

Still, the movie is spellbinding. The imagery is intriguing. Harrison Ford is incredible. Helen Mirren portrays the ever-loyal wife well. The problems with this movie lie not in its presentation, but in the story's muddled messages.
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wandering aimlessly upstream
MrsRainbow20 April 1999
The Mosquito Coast is an odd film. It attempts to talk about issues which are important and which few films address, fails to communicate them clearly, yet isn't sucked into the maelstrom of moralizing and sententiousness that films like this almost inevitably enter. Instead, it occupies some sort of odd middle ground of ambiguity and murkiness. One gets the feeling that the film is a lot like the Fox family: they know they're going upstream but they have no specific destination, and some of them really aren't sure why they're going there in the first place.

I felt from the very beginning that the film failed to define its ideals or set a sense of clear direction. Harrison Ford, in a performance which I found unconvincing (perhaps because of the inability of the film to articulate what motivated him), rambles on about everything from the Japanese to nuclear war. There's a large difference between subtlety, i.e. not spelling things out for the viewer, and incoherence. This was incoherent. We know that he's unhappy with America, but I don't know what he's really looking for, what motivates him, etc.. Maybe he doesn't know. But if that's the case, it should be made clear.

A good example of how this plays out is his attempt to bring ice to the "noble savages." Why does he do this? Because "ice is civilization." But why does he want to bring them civilization? It seemed to me that civilization was something he was having a lot of problems with. I assume that the novel explained this more clearly and the film failed to translate properly. He of course stated earlier in the film that the savages would probably think ice a sort of jewel. So? Why does this matter? Is he looking for lost innocence?

Then later in the film "Mother" says she wishes to go to Mr. Haddy's place. He responds "And live like savages?" I can only assume that he wishes to establish some sort of elementary civilization where a small community lives in peace and harmony. Or perhaps he's just looking to withdraw from everyone, as his spurning of Mr. Haddy's gifts would show. Also, a possible literary reference is the name of their craft, Victory, which is the name of a very dull Joseph Conrad novel about a man who withdraws from life and goes to live on an island. Extreme misanthropy? Unlikely.

A possible light at the end is his talk about man not being made to walk upright. Is he looking for some sort of return to primal existence? But then why invent air conditioning in Geronimo? It all adds up to a very disorganized mess, both in Mr. Fox's head, and on screen. The Mosquito Coast is like a puzzle that still has all the pieces, but rather than fit them together, Weir just threw them all in the box and let us look at them.
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Galt of the Jungle
paul2001sw-124 June 2013
There's a touch of John Galt about Harrison Ford's protagonist in 'The Mosquito Coast': a brilliant, welfare-hating, atheistic inventor who retires from a civilised world full of moochers and looters and consequently doomed to collapse. He (and the film) also seem to share Ayn Rand's view of a world not occupied by Europeans as a virgin territory. Yet the film shifts from portraying him as a Randian hero to something rather less attractive; and odd moments towards the end reminded me of Andrey Zvyagintsev's superb 'The Return', albeit without the subtlety. Subtlety is really the key here: the film needs to show how the character's final descent is a natural consequence of his worldview, not some random madness; but Harrison Ford lacks the depth as an actor to pull this off. A young Helen Mirren co-stars, but the film is fundamentally all about Ford, and he can't fully convey the darkness of the man. It's a shame: there's a good (although somewhat fabulous) parable in the underlying storyline.
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mattrochman13 June 2006
Love Peter Wier. Love Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren. Hated this film. I could not, for the life of me, work out exactly what this film was trying to say or where it was intending to go. It astounded me to hear that Harrison Ford regarded it as one of his favourite films. Perhaps I'm missing something. But as far as I was concerned, the film generally lacked engaging qualities and the story seemed oddball, direction-less, contradictory and dripping with self-importance (that it didn't deserve). Really disappointed with this heap of dung. I don't think I missed the point because I don't think that the film knew what point it was trying to make - so how can any viewer profess to? Lies somewhere between "trash" and "dreadfully cluttered attempt at poignancy". 1/10.
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Who is to blame for Allie's actions???
orawson30 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The Mosquito Coast is a story of an individual who is looking for something that he doesn't quite understand. He lacks inherent meaning and a sense of purpose in the United States and actively seeks out a smaller, local environment in which he can develop and reinvent himself in a society supportive of his needs.

The obtuse use of religious imagery adds depth and ambiguity at the same time. It is difficult to realise that through refusing the commonplace religious doctrine (though the scene on the ferry with Reverend Spellgood) and later through refusing his entry into Geronimo shows his own personal paranoia. Whilst trying to keep the people of Geronimo and his family from the confines of organised religion he spills out lines and lines of his own dogmatic beliefs. 'It's an absolute sin to accept the decadence of obsolescence. 'Why do things get worse and worse? They don't have to. They could get better and better. We accept that things fall apart.', and the quote about the world being left unfinished and needing science and technology to complete it. Allie regurgitates his ideas about science as though he is preaching and understanding this juxtaposition of his beliefs against his distrust of organised religious beliefs is central to appreciating the film.

Unfortunately for Allie, he never finds the meaning and purpose that he is looking for because the environment that he moves to is not supportive of his personal, emotional and cultural needs. The symbolic choice to destroy the village of Geronimo rather than fight to save it exemplifies the American attitude that he had earlier criticised "I just work here, that's the attitude".

By the conclusion of the film, Allie is a difficult character to like, as his paranoia and selfishness toward his family have resulted in the tragedy of the ending. In many ways Allie is a victim of the modern world as like most of us he felt that the commercialised and globalised world that we live in causes us to look beyond the lives we live and find 'real' meaning in them. This supports the ideas of Neitzsche who said that in an increasingly globalised world people have to rediscover meaning and reinvent themselves. I challenge you to consider Allie as a victim rather than the antagonist of this film and try to rationalise his actions into the desperate actions of somebody fighting for meaning and value in their lives.
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Pride's descent into madness
Wuchakk12 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This 1986 film is about a megalomaniac genius who takes his family to Central America to start a new utopia. His arrogance and naiveness attracts conflict & trouble

This is not an entertaining movie in the conventional sense. Ford usually plays likable heroes, whereas here he's an anti-hero or, more accurately, a raving lunatic. Yes, he still possesses a glimmer of his likable charisma, at first, and his leadership skills, genius and work ethic are all admirable, but all in all he's a rude, obnoxious know-it-all, not to mention a naive idealist.

"The Mosquito Coast" is a very odd and brings to mind other eccentric jungle films like "Fitzcarraldo," "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" & "Sorcerer", as well as the "Vacation" flicks. It's a psychological study with the requisite lessons, some of which include: (Don't read further unless you've seen the film)

  • "Pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."

  • In trying to escape society, a person will eventually mirror its evils. Society, regardless of its quality (pleasant or miserable), is largely inescapable. It's like the only salesman in town. He can cuss you out, charge whatever he wants, and even beat you with the item you need/desire. You can either take this or try to make the product yourself, which may be difficult or nigh impossible. Allie didn't like it so he went elsewhere. It takes a unique person to pick up and leave the comforts of society, a strong and talented person. However, such a personality usually has a dark side, which isn't revealed until the second half of the picture. What happens when/if this 'dark side' goes unchecked? Eventually, Allie becomes an inescapable society unto himself. His family cannot leave him for the same reasons he couldn't leave society: inability to procure food and shelter, lack of safety, lack of luxury, etc. Allie provides them with all these. In return, he requires their complete loyalty in working toward his goals and tolerates no disobedience. He becomes the same monster as the society he so badly wanted to leave. Hence, his son (River Phoenix) becomes the person he was at the beginning, albeit the dictatorial 'society' his son is trying to escape is Allie himself!

  • The inherent problems of a utopian society in a dystopian world. Their little village was for all intents and purposes practically perfect: self-sufficient, organized, ecologically sound, non-violent, etc. Then a few thugs with guns come along and ruin everything. It's basically saying that human society has and always will be dominated by those with the power to kill. In creating a perfect society, Allie didn't think ahead to the prospect of negative external influences. He thought he could isolate himself from the insanity and madness of the rest of the world. As a naive idealist, Allie really didn't want to face or accept the possibility of violence or having to protect his town. It's just common sense that anything good will tried to be taken sooner or later by someone bad. Allie may have been correct in criticizing America for its decadence and allowing a culture of greed & stupidity to flourish, but he was wrong to criticize America for having a strong military with formidable weapons.

  • No matter where you go in this world corruption/evil/violence exists. Even if you're at a lagoon that's not on a map, pieces of corruption will naturally float ashore. Nature itself is corrupt: Nature's heat burns your skin like fire then drowns you in a flood, not to mention you slowly grow old and eventually die. Even if you're intelligent and talented enough to overcome all such external problems, what about the evil within that we're so easily blinded to, like arrogance, hatred, stubbornness and envy?

  • What creates a better lasting society -- science/technology or Christianity/religion? Or Both? The film shows both Allie and the missionary, Spellgood, taking their families to the Mosquito Coast to start societies. Allie's society fails because of his devolving megalomania, whereas Spellgood's is obviously successful -- his village is clean, orderly and happy; they have built a magnificent church and comfortable housing; his people are clothed and fed; they sing so sweetly that Allie's children mistake them for angels. Spellgood's people may have given up some freedom but in return they had a thriving, disciplined society. Spellgood's success naturally gives birth to another evil within Allie's heart -- envy. He becomes so envious and hateful, in fact, that he literally tries to incinerate Spellgood's jungle utopia! It should be pointed out that Spellgood isn't depicted in the film as the 'good guy.' It's obvious that he's a bit of a loon himself with the typical negative connotations of Christian ministers usually seen in movies. In fact, it's clear that Spellgood is a megalomaniac like Allie. So what's the difference between the two? Unlike Allie, Spellgood has faith in and submits to something beyond himself, something greater -- God -- and this belief and reverence keeps his pride in check, that is, keeps him humble. Evidence of this is shown in the church scene where the congregation watches Spellgood on TV; his sermon doesn't attempt to bring glory to himself but rather focuses on teaching the people how to commune with the Almighty, using a telephone as a simple object lesson. Which brings us to...

  • Having no faith except in yourself is not good. Allie believed that technology and his genius alone would save them, but it was this that destroyed them. Allie had no faith but in himself. When this happens one's pride remains unchecked and will run its natural course. Most important to him was freedom -- yet only for himself, he was a tyrant with his family; such freedom leaves him dead and his family alienated, impoverished and lost, yet thankfully not totally without hope.
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One of Ford's best performances
tieman6426 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
In Werner Herzog's "Fitzcarraldo", an obsessive Klaus Kinski concocts a ridiculous plan to build a lavish opera house at the heart of the Amazonian jungle. He also plans to brings ice to the natives and heaves an entire ship across a large mountain.

Peter Weir's "Mosquito Coast" follows a similar storyline, only here it is Harisson Ford who attempts to brings civilisation to an Amazonian village by inventing a gigantic ice machine. Both films are about mad men and ice. Men consumed by passion and insanity, gradually melting in the smouldering heat.

Harisson Ford can't act, but twice director Peter Weir has coaxed genuinely great performances out of him ("Witness" and "Mosquito Coast"). Here Ford plays Allie, a brilliant inventor who spends much of his time lamenting the current state of America. Along with his wife and three kids, he lives a fairly comfortable life, taking odd jobs and working on a farm. In his spare time, Allie invents things like a machine that can instantly make ice using fire as fuel.

One day Allie finally gets sick of the American way of life and convinces his family to move to the Mosquito Coast (South America). Once there, he purchases a small area of land and appoints himself mayor. Pretty soon he's the king of his own little tribe. Allie and family then proceed to turn the villagers lives upside down, initially for the better (they build quite an impressive little town, complete with hydro-phonics and a gigantic ice-maker), but eventually Allie begins to relish his power a bit too much and it's all downhill from there.

"Mosquito Coast" is an interesting film, filled with strong acting (Hellen Mirren is great as Ford's wife), but the plot doesn't take us anywhere new. We've seen "Fitzcarraldo", we've seen John Boorman's "Emerald Forest", Roland Joffe's "The Mission" and Coppola's "Apocalypse Now". These are all stories about strong men in death-defying jungle locations. Weir's film is slick and well made, but this should be a film about demons. About really deep emotions. His film doesn't go there. It's "Fitzcaraldo" lite.

8/10 - Like all of Weir's work, "Mosquito Coast" has a certain quality, a certain intelligence about it. Still, it seems to be lacking something. It feels safe and polished, when it should perhaps scar.
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very underrated, very necessary
takatomon30 November 2001
i bet alot of people don't like this movie because they don't want to reflect on how THEY relate to IT. alot of people don't want to be confronted with "koyaanisqatsi's" or "silent runnings" message. we can continue to bury our heads in the sand about what we're doing to the planet and keep on reproducing like roaches, but the earth will have the last laugh on us in the end. mosquito coast is an excellent character study with an important message. your children are going to inherit your landfill.
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Pulling teeth
jasonrennie21 February 2004
I appreciate what this film was trying to do: show the dark side of genius---show how it can go awfully wrong and hurt so many other people. But, this is done so bluntly that you feel like you've been smacked with a baseball bat by the end of the movie. Allie Fox is a "genius" who has no end of "brilliant ideas." First a (scale model) ice machine, then a move to an island off the coast of Central American, then the building of a dream home in the jungle, then the construction of a super-size ice machine... it goes on and on. He doesn't get it and it takes way tooooooo long for his family to clue in that he might have tons of intelligence but not a drop of wisdom or common sense. The fact that his wife follows him like a puppy dog (dragging her four children along) is just absurd. Ford, Mirren and Phoenix do a fine job of acting, but the material is so bad that watching the movie feels like pulling teeth.
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The movie that changed my life
Idocamstuf3 June 2003
I have already commented on this film, but I have seen it twice since then, and I think about it everyday. This is the kind of movie that Hollywood is too much of a wimp to release. This is not just a movie, it is a statement on American Society. This is by all means Harrison Ford's and Peter Weir's best movie, and it may be the best movie of the 80's. Roger Ebert should be ashamed of himself for giving this film ** out of **** when he gives a lot of lousy movies **** out of ****, I don't listen to his reviews anyway. The only people who don't love this film are the ones who are not open minded, or don't understand it. That 6.4 rating is way, way underrated for this film, it should be up near 8, considering what a lot of other crap gets rated. This is my number 1 movie. **** out of ****.
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An unsatisfying outcome to a story involving a highly self-absorbed and egocentric genius
lefkiosvanrooy28 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
While this movie starts with a promising storyline and a character that while not always likable (and quite self-absorbed for the entirety of the film), still has interesting thoughts on the American way of living and an incredible craftsmanship, it soon leaves you with disdain about this character and the interest that had been developed in the 1st hour of the movie soon turns into a drag, leaving you feeling frustrated about why these characters are being silent towards the father's reckless and almost-deadly treatment. The father turns from a man with a vision of building a civilisation from scratch into a man obsessed with not abiding to any form of current civilisation and living. He drags his family through dangerous situations for the sole purpose of making a living based on his narrow-minded view of how humans should live life. And while this could still make for an interesting storyline, the sole outcome of the terrain his family experiences is that with his sudden passing, they can now be free to live life the way they want to – a somehow unsatisfying final outcome when you consider the ordeal these people had to go through.
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A great adventure movie that you will not like.
btg-810-92045629 October 2013
A tale of an eccentric genius with an equally eccentric dream and his desire to escape a supposedly doomed America with his family to form a retro civilization in the tropics. It's difficult to like Harrison Ford (Allie)-especially in the last third of this movie when he starts really going off the deep end. But it is unique and really illustrates the mindset of an eccentric genius character well. If you are a middle-of-the-road (perhaps slightly Democratic) person with a 9-5 job-you know...the kind that the doomsayers claim has not "woke up" to what is going on, then you won't get it. You won't like it at all either. But art is not about being liked and often it is not even about passing judgment. Art is about illustrating the phenomenon of what it is to be human-without using crayons.
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Harrison Ford should have received an Oscar for this Performance
johngmills6 October 2001
I have read the book and watched the film, and because of Harrison Ford's uncanny portrayal of the lead character he should have received an Oscar. There is an eerie scariness in the coming to life inventor- father to a mad scientist with humanistic touches. The book gave deep and colorful look at this man, but Ford alone made him transition from words to life. A deep look at someone with high ideals who becomes disillusioned at American way of life.
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Absolutely Brilliant!!! :)
Redwon12 August 2001
Once again this is one of Harrison Ford's best performances. Harrison Ford is just one of those actors that can do the job well, for any role. The Mosquito Coast is an adventure like no other, which cannot be compared with another. It portrays a man's will and courage to be god. Ford stars as Allie Fox, an 'Inventor Genius', who sets off to the ‘Mosquito Coast' in search of respect for an 'Ice Machine', named 'Fat Boy' that he apparently invents. He builds a settlement and a huge version of the 'Fat Boy' machine and shows 'Ice' to people who have never seen 'Ice' before. Unfortunately things go wrong and Harrison Ford's character begins to change dramatically.

With wonderful cinematography, great actors and a great story line, this movie is recommended to anyone and is a great family adventure movie. It is a masterpiece and one of Harrison Ford's best. As one of Harrison Ford's greatest fans, I give this movie a wonderful score of 9.5/10.
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The King and the Cardinal
spareribs27 July 1999
Peter Weir directs this film about a man, Allie, fed up with society who travels with his family to the Mosquito Coast to set up his own Utopia. In the tradition of the Conrad novel Heart of Darkness, Allie(Ford) becomes obsessed with the Utopia he has created a will not let anything or anyone stop him from his near perfect world. The person intent on stopping Allie from his "destruction of mankind" is the Rev. Spellgood, a missionary who plans on converting the "heathens" along the coast. Allie has his atheistic beliefs though and is not willing to left Rev. Spellgood interfere with anything that he does. For many people this movie was an absolute disgrace and according to my mother it was a complete attack at Christianity and GOD. But if you are willing to put religion aside to get a view from both sides of the fence then Mosquito Coast might have something to offer you. Insight.
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