In The Edge (20th century Fox), a plane crash leaves a couple of guys lost in the Alaskan wilderness. Charles (Anthony Hopkins) is blessed with wealth, book-learned knowledge, and a model wife (Elle Macpherson). Bob (Alec Baldwin), a fashion photographer, is a scrappy grabber who is sleeping with Charles’ wife and whose resentment of the older man becomes, ironically, his own twisted reason to live. Their challenges include outwitting a man-eating bear and not freezing to death. Together they learn important character lessons before help flies in.
This outsize, slightly ludicrous meditation on the company of men bereft of kitchen utensils might easily have fallen into caricature: The survivors begin their trek in stuff available from L.L. Bean and wind up swathed in lovely stitched fur; and after Legends of the Fall, haven’t we seen enough dances with bears? What we haven’t seen, however, is a taut adventure story from director Lee Tamahori (who, in Once Were Warriors, showed an exceptional ability to convey psychological tension using geographical landscape). And we certainly haven’t seen many outdoor settings from playwright David Mamet.
This, then, is what happens when Mamet sends men outside to play, monitored by Tamahori: They one-up each other with the kind of energized, hammering dialogue previously heard in such phallocentric indoor settings as con artist dens (House of Games) and real estate offices (Glengarry Glen Ross). (Women are still big losers in Mametland; the wifey in the middle here not only is a characterless mannequin, she’s played by one, too.) Meanwhile, Tamahori proves that he can shape a studio picture effectively to his specs; his action sense is as personal as his screenwriter’s.
As for Hopkins and Baldwin, the well-matched actors grab their parts with disciplined ferocity. Baldwin does his best work in a long time (as in Glengarry, his combative thug-in-a-suit stance is well served by Mamet’s words). And Hopkins creates one of his most satisfying, complex characters since The Remains of the Day. Charles may be a quiet, complex man — but Hopkins eats the screen. Let the bears beware. B+