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Fearless (Blu-ray Review)

9 Dec, 2013 By: Mike Clark

Available via Warner Archive
$19.95 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for language and airplane crash realism.
Stars Jeff Bridges, Isabella Rossellini, Rosie Perez.

A few years back, I calculated that (up to that time) Jeff Bridges had starred in something like 17 cult movies that mostly deserved that status — that is, the likes of Bad Company, Rancho Deluxe, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, The Fabulous Bakers Boys and so on. If you are of age and didn’t see these in theaters, you may not be as much of a movie person as you profess to be. Because I know too many people who did, even though these are achievements the masses ignored. I don’t quite put Fearless on a level with those four, but it’s good enough — and it also gets points for having gotten director Peter Weir out of his oddly “soft” two-picture period with Disney, which resulted in Dead Poets Society (soft, though it at least has its moments) and Green Card (soft-headed all the way). Based on a novel by Rafael Yglesias, who also wrote the screenplay, this is an eerie, under-your-skin story of survivor trauma: specifically, an airplane mishap but a situation easily as applicable to combat or a mass killing where one is spared when others are not.

Complete hydraulic failure crashes a passenger plane in a cornfield — a setpiece the film keeps returning to and one staged expertly by Weir. Several travelers are killed but several others survive, and a permanently dazed Bridges is regarded as some kind of hero for having taken charge, though he does not take any credit. His business partner isn’t among those spared (and died in an especially grisly way), which finds Bridges’ lawyer (Tom Hulce) lacing up his running shoes to go chase an ambulance in the manner of Walter Matthau’s “Whiplash Willie” Gingrich from Billy Wilder’s The Fortune Cookie. Bridges isn’t particularly interested — and isn’t in much else, other than in the light of a fellow passenger who lost a toddler (Rosie Perez) and a boy he led from the wreckage. Given that Bridges has a wife (Isabella Rossellini) and a son of his own, his family has a conflict between wanting to help him and feeling resentful over his priorities.

Now fearless — or at least acting that way — Bridges begins strolling into traffic and (in one scene that provided some of the movie’s ad art) standing perilously high up on a skyscraper. We keep waiting for him to explode or implode, but the story makes us wait. On its way, there’s some compelling support-group material involving an airline psychiatrist, and it’s instructive to witness the different ways in which the survivors react to the experience, including one guy who simply seems anxious to get back to his job after giving the session maybe five minutes of his time.

This is an unusual movie that was probably commercial suicide from the get-go — but a good Blu-ray choice for Warner Archive to issue (with The Hudsucker Proxy and Billy Rose’s Jumbo among other recent releases, it’s apparent that the studio’s specialized unit isn’t going down obvious roads when it comes to its hi-def releases). Now that Warner is, so to speak, in bed with Paramount on the catalog front, I’d love to see Bad Company and Tucker get the call: respectively, their cinematographers were Gordon Willis and Vittorio Storaro.

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