Warner Bros. // 1993 // 122 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 20th, 2013
Live life to the fullest.
Architect Max Klein (Jeff Bridges, True Grit) finds his life in upheaval when he takes off from San Francisco on a business trip to Texas. The plane Max is on experiences a deadly malfunction and plummets to earth in a cloud of smoke and fire. When the impact is over, many are dead...but some have miraculously survived. Max is one of the lucky survivors, and on the way toward impact he found a new sense of enlightenment. Back on earth, Max wanders through his life, revisiting an old flame (Debra Monk, The Bridges of Madison County) and eventually finding his way back home to his young son and wife (Isabella Rossillini, Death Becomes Her). Soon Max finds himself bonding with a fellow survivor, Carla (Rosie Perez, White Men Can't Jump), who is still grieving the loss her son in the accident. Both Max and Carla are trying to figure out why they lived while others died, and what it means in the big scheme of things.
I had much interest in seeing director Peter Weir's (Witness) drama Fearless. A movie about people surviving a plane crash holds a lot of potential in both character and story. Jeff Bridges was the lead, which piqued my interest even more; there is no other actor working in Hollywood today who is as likable as Bridges. From Jeff Lebowski to Rooster Cogburn to Starman, Bridges has created indelible characters that stand the test of time. To top it all off, Rosie Perez had been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her work in the film. Fearless had all the makings of a really great film.
Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into whatever rhyme Fearless was trying to create. Part of it could be that what I was anticipating wasn't what I got; Fearless ended up being more of a meandering character study than a linear narrative about people going through tragic circumstances. There is much rumination on life and death, but it all felt inert and oddly...dull. Halfway through Fearless I found myself bored and looking at the clock on my phone. That's never a good sign.
Jeff Bridges is good in Fearless, probably the best thing about the film. Although I didn't really like the movie as a whole, Bridges gives a brave and nuanced performance as a man who has found a new enlightenment after the unthinkable transpires. There are moments when Bridges's eyes draw you into Max, breaking through any mediocrity and allowing viewers to see into the soul of the character. However, when Bridges isn't on screen, Fearless suffers greatly. Other characters just aren't as engaging as Max; Isabella Rossollini is distant and cold as Max's wife Laura while Tom Hulce becomes downright unlikable as the lawyer trying to get Max and his business partner's wife a maximum financial payout for the accident. A morose Rosie Perez (part of there "what happened to them?" club) was nominated for an Academy Award for her grueling portrayal of Carla, a survivor who lost her 2 year old baby in the crash. It's a strong enough performance, but I'm not sure it was worthy of an Oscar nomination.
Director Peter Weir gives Fearless an almost otherworldly feel as Max wanders through the film, reconnecting with people and places after the plane accident. The screenplay is by Rafael Yglesias (based upon on his book), who offers up a lot of new age mumbo jumbo that feels like a screenwriter trying to work out his existential issues on screen. The film flashbacks to moments before the accident, and Max's epiphany almost comes off as laughable; I get what Bridges was trying to convey by laying his head back and smiling toward the camera as the plane falls toward catastrophe, but he just looked too much like a stoned Jeff Leobowski for the moment to be believable.
Fearless is presented in a very attractive looking 1.85:1 widescreen transfer in 1080p high definition. This is a Warner Archive title and, while it hasn't been given much love by way of extra features, fans will be happy to know this image looks great. The picture sports solid colors and dark black levels. The transfer retains a very nice 'filmic' look without being heavy on grain. Overall this is a very good transfer from Warner. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo in English. Aside of the crash sequences (which aren't heavy on action), this is a mostly front heavy mix. Fearless is a drama, so it's no surprise that it doesn't offer much in the way of surround sounds or directional effects. That being said, it's a perfectly serviceable audio mix. Also included on this disc are English subtitles. The only bonus feature included on Fearless is a theatrical trailer for the film.
Some viewers may be drawn in, but I have the feeling that the majority of those who watch it may come away feeling colder than anticipated. What's missing is a tangible access to the character's emotions and trials after the plane crash. There's a lot of discussion about God and heaven and what it means to be alive, but it all rings hollow. Fearless doesn't end up living to its title.
A fine Jeff Bridges performance, but little else.
Review content copyright © 2013 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 122 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Rated R