Jeff Bridges Stars in Ridley Scott’s Seafaring Adventure.
DIRECTED BY RIDLEY SCOTT/1996
BLU-RAY STREET DATE: DECEMBER 17, 2019/KL STUDIO CLASSICS
In 1996, Hollywood Pictures released White Squall. Directed by Ridley Scott, it is the tale of a group of boys who become the crew of the Albatross, a sailing vessel, in 1960. The exercise is designed to promote character and responsibility and has its share of heartbreak, sexual awakening, bravado, and culminates in a battle of the elements.
Jeff Rona’s score is a beautiful part of this film. Plaintive without resorting to sea-chantery, the score appears in the right places and then backs away. Hugh Johnson’s direction of photography is wonderful and every frame is lit gorgeously without distracting from the action taking place.
Kino’s presentation of the material is beautiful. There’s grain in the image, little to no flicker, and the audio is clear. Included on the disc is a production featurette with stars Bridges, Goodall, Wolf, and the director.
The acting is well-done. I found myself caring about each of the characters in turn as they were presented onscreen. Jeff Bridges is the firm leader, Caroline Goodall (his on-screen wife) is a capable sparring partner (away from the rest of the crew of course, for all kinds of reasons which likely range from morale to male fragility), and the ensemble as a whole, gels.
Something still seems off to me, however. Part of this is that it seems to me that films made within 35 years of an event seem to be more like exercises in nostalgia rather than actual looks at what was happening during that time. Nearly everything felt as if it had gauze over the lens…or perhaps the metaphorical amber tint of remembrance. Remember the opening scene of While You Were Sleeping? That’s the kind of varnish I’m talking about here. It’s not so much a visual quality in this case; instead, it’s more of the storytelling quality.
There’s a fine line, I think, in having credible character development. A character who doesn’t change is dull, but a character of changes too much is unbelievable to the audience. I’m still not entirely sure where Scott Wolf’s character, Chuck Gieg, falls on this spectrum. This uncertainty leaves me unsatisfied with the way the movie works within himself.
At the end of the film, Gieg has an impassioned monologue at a key moment, as all good narrators do in these sorts of films, especially in the mid-1990s. The movie opens with him standing up to his dad’s wishes, even if he is quieter about it in that context. And yet, during that monologue, something just isn’t working for me. It’s as if the boy behind the eyes of the actor hasn’t yet really changed.
Perhaps this is less about nostalgia clouding one’s view of the past and more about my frustration that people just don’t change as much as I wish they would. Despite this frustration, I recommend this film highly, even for multiple viewings. It’s a beautifully told, beautifully shot, and beautifully cast film.
All images are screen-captures from the Blu-ray disc being reviewed.