The River Wild

RiverWildThe River Wild has as much tense thrills and excitement as any amusement park ride.  The incomparable Meryl Streep stars as an ex-river guide named Gayle, who takes her family on a peaceful vacation (or so she thought).  Is there any type of role or movie genre she can’t do?

David Strathairn (A League of Their Own) plays Gayle’s hard-working husband, Tom, engulfed in his job.  “He just doesn’t have time for us anymore,” complains Gail.  Gail and Tom’s son Roarke, played by Joseph Mazzello (Jurassic Park, Simon Birch) have become disenchanted with Tom, so Roarke yearns for a new male figure on the trip.

Enter Wade (Kevin Bacon) and two buddies, Terry and Frank.  The underrated John C. Reilly (Perfect Storm, Magnolia) plays Terry, a reserved, but active participant in the storyline.  Wade, a friendly, seemingly inexperienced river man, exhibits some suspicious characteristics as the story goes on.  “I’m a nice guy, just a different kind of nice guy,” Wade explains.

The leisurely trip soon becomes a fast paced thrill ride with multiple elements and changing character motives.  It’s interesting to see how everyone achieves what they want and how they achieve it reflects their characters’ traits.  Look for Benjamin Bratt (Next Best Thing, Miss Congeniality) in a small role as a park ranger.

Director Curtis Hanson (Hand That Rocks the Cradle, L.A. Confidential) keeps the camera shots simple with few technical tricks.  The increasingly tense story keeps the audience involvement at a high level.  Hanson along with his cast and crew achieve some amazing footage on the rapid filled river locations.  A predictably rough shoot pays off with an engaging piece of entertainment that you can really enjoy.  Jerry Goldsmith adds more emotion with his great, dramatic film score.

This original story utilizes nature and intelligent tactics for the action sequences instead of stressing on typical action movie tools like guns and explosions, though one of these elements do factor into the story in an important way.  The characters most use their intelligence and wits to get desired results in many tough, life-threatening situations.

The movie’s climax at “The Gauntlet” delivers some great action and an original ending.  The cast and crew can be greatly commended for the tremendous amount of physical obstacles they overcame to deliver a satisfying movie.  Rated PG-13 for violence and some language.  Recommended (*** out of four stars) for the solid story, Meryl Streep’s performance and kinetic natural environments.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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