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  Fearless Born Again
Year: 1993
Director: Peter Weir
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Isabella Rossellini, Rosie Perez, Tom Hulce, John Turturro, Benicio Del Toro, Deirdre O'Connell, John de Lancie, Spencer Vrooman, Daniel Czerny, Eve Roberts, Robin Pearson Rose, Debra Monk, Cynthia Mace, Randle Mell, Kathryn Rossetter
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: A cornfield in California where a selection of dazed-looking people emerge from the rows, one of them, Max Klein (Jeff Bridges) holding a baby in one arm and the hand of a young boy who follows him in another. The boy is not the only one following him, as there are others, and once they reach a road where the emergency services are waiting they begin to wander around in search of their assistance; one woman, Carla Rodrigo (Rosie Perez) is screaming that her baby has been left behind in the wreckage of the aeroplane which has crashed. Max definitely feels strange, and once he has handed the infant to its mother, he quietly flees the scene...

It seems nobody was quite sure what to make of Fearless when it was released, with many having major problems with it, even if they readily acknowledged its better points. Star Jeff Bridges was acclaimed for his performance, yet oddly once the award season came around he was barely nominated for anything, never mind the Oscar that a significant number of viewers thought he should have been given the nod for. Reputedly director Peter Weir was so upset at what he considered one of his finest achievements had been overlooked that it shook his faith in the industry, and instead of going to to classic status his film only mustered cult adulation.

But looking at the career of Bridges you would see that was so often the case, one terrific performance after another in films which rarely fulfilled their promise at the box office but did generate a small and fervent coterie of audiences championing his work. Some of those deserved that following more than others, but Fearless was undoubtedly one of those which contained an excellent example of Bridges' acting as the ordinary, rather timid man whose survival in the plane crash transforms his way of regarding himself. Weir offers him Christlike imagery and allusions to the religious belief in some kind of afterlife, or at least some transition from this world to whatever may be next, but it could equally be there is no God at all in this scenario.

It could be that we are all there is, and its refusal to land on one side of the debate or the other, remaining essentially agnostic even as it considered the for and against arguments, grounded Weir's usual mystical qualities in far more provocative musings, simply because you were asked in Rafael Ygelsias' script to make up your own mind. That's not to say there are no answers to those big conundrums life throws up, and Max's help with fellow passenger Carla to coax her into coming to terms with her crushing guilt about not being able to save her baby becomes the crux of the dialogue between what humankind is capable of and what they cannot understand they cannot be capable of - there's only so much you can do when things get tough, and Max has to realise that as well.

In the meantime, he thinks having "died" that he is now invincible, or some kind of ghost, and his spaced out behaviour alienates his wife Laura (Isabella Rossellini) and child while frustrating the lawyer (Tom Hulce) who wants a huge financial settlement for his clients and the psychiatrist (John Turturro) who sees it as his duty to make the survivors come to terms with the tragedy. Not helping him or Max is that those damaged people consider Max their saviour since he led them from the wreckage before it went up in a fireball, and the scenes we see of the crash, often in flashback, can be unexpectedly, profoundly moving if you're used to your average disaster movie. Weir's team of editors were extremely well utilised in that respect, expertly hitting the emotional beats as the story draws to its finale.

How realistic Max's reaction to his near-death experience is or otherwise could also be debated, as ordinarily you might have thought it would have made him even more nervous - the shrink claims he has post-traumatic stress disorder, but at this remove it more resembles both a grief for his old self as if he had really died, and a huge ego boost which comes with making it through the worst possible events only to discover they were not as final as you had anticipated, which is something close to madness. It could be because by the end the crashing plane has become a metaphor for life, and as it dawns on the passengers - us - that death is approaching it cannnot be underestimated how necessary it is for someone to be with us to tell us it's going to be fine; in Max's case, he took on that role not only for others who understand but for himself. Whether it is or not, ultimately we do not know until we get there, but that humanity, that connection of reassurance, was what Fearless was most simply about, no high-falutin' mysticism necessary. Music by Maurice Jarre, excelling in the final scenes.

[This film is available on blinkbox, a service providing hundreds of movies and television episodes without subscription, just a one off payment to either rent or buy your choice. You can watch blinkbox on your SmartTV, Xbox 360, iPad, Blu-rays, Set-top boxes, PC or Mac or TV connected to your PC or Mac. Click here for the details.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Peter Weir  (1944 - )

Australian writer and director with a touch of the mystical about his work, usually fish out of water dramas. After various short films, he made The Cars That Ate Paris, a darkly funny horror which nearly ended his career when it failed financially. But he bounced back with Picnic at Hanging Rock, an international hit which led to apocalyptic fantasy The Last Wave, war tragedy Gallipoli and political thriller The Year of Living Dangerously, whereupon he moved to Hollywood to direct Amish thriller Witness, survival tale The Mosquito Coast, Dead Poets Society (possibly his worst film), comedy Green Card, spiritual air crash drama Fearless, science fiction satire The Truman Show, historical adventure Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and WW2 era trek movie The Way Back.

 
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