Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Fearless (1993)

(Requested by Jenny Sekwa.)

I knew I liked this one when Jeff Bridges's strawberry allergy wasn't used for a cheap laugh. Mystical drama about a much-changed airplane crash survivor and his effect, both positive and negative, on those who surround him benefits from an astonishing performance from Bridges. Wavering between steely serenity and total psychosis, Max Klein could have been an excuse for histrionics from showier actors, but Bridges channels his natural confidence into a contradictory sort of inner peace; Max may not be right in the head, but he certainly acts like he knows something we don't, even as he uses his loss of fear to mask the turmoil within. In short, Max Klein is a fascinating character, and Bridges's essaying of him is equally fascinating. Thus, the film is fascinating. Peter Weir's direction is solid and surefooted, at times reminiscent of his creepily detached work on Picnic at Hanging Rock, another film about how a tragedy affects people. The Christian symbolism that pervades the work is interesting, given Max's defiance towards/rejection of God ("You wanna kill me, but you can't!"), as is the obvious messianic qualities of the character (his Jewishness has to be significant); it all feeds into Weir's vision of a world where strange, inexplicable things happen. The film's climax piles on the transcendence with a trowel, which should force the thing into a nosedive, but it instead works beautifully -- after the muted quality of much of the film, the over-the-top ending ties in with the film's running theme of sudden, violent epiphanies. It's a long and painful journey from "I'm not dead" to "I'm alive," but it's one worth making.

Grade: A-


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