Dir: Peter Weir. 1993. Jeff Bridges, Rosie Perez, Isabella Rossellini, Tom Hulce, John Turturro & Benicio Del Toro.

From the surreal opening frames of “Max” (Jeff Bridges) wandering vacantly through a cornfield, that gives way to an inferno filled with plane wreckage, you know you’re in for a unique cinematic experience. The actor aptly described the film’s opening as if director “Peter (Weir) laced the popcorn with acid.”

Fearless is a tale of a San Francisco architect (Bridges) who is one of the only survivors of a downed flight headed for Houston. He loses his best friend and business partner and comes out of the flames feeling invincible. He is deemed the “good Samaritan” by the media, after helping lead people to safety. But he returns home to find himself emotionally isolated from his family. The only comfort he can find coming from helping a suicidal woman (Perez), after her baby perished in the wreck.

Australian Peter Weir (Dead Poet’s Society) is a filmmaker who really gets to the root of emotional baggage. And Fearless may the best example of this in the impressive canon of his work. With steady, but delicate direction, Weir explores in this film the aspects of humanity that make us both strong and weak.

The script by Rafael Yglesias (based on his novel) is moving and raw. It explores the deeper motivations in what makes us human with beautiful insight and perspective. The largely string score by Maurice Jarre furthers the affect, climaxing in a very moving final sequence.

In my opinion, veteran actor Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski) is one of the most overlooked performing talents in cinema. Bridges gives a haunting performance as a man who passes through death, unscathed, and comes out the other end feeling god-like. As he explores his life, as if for the first time, he loses sight of his wife and son — emotionally isolating himself from everyone except a fellow survivor (Perez). There is something very ghost like in Bridges’ performance — a man stuck in limbo between Heaven and Earth.

Rosie Perez (Pineapple Express) gives the most dynamic performance of her career as “Carla” —a deeply religious woman who lost her reason for life. While Max explores the world with the enthusiasm of a child, Carla has withdrawn into a deep and damaging depression. Perez plays her role with a very natural sadness and vulnerability. The bond that is formed between the two, throughout the story, is a unique and complicated. Not the sort of interpersonal dynamic found within relationships of most films.

Tom Hulce, best known for playing Mozart in the Oscar winning Amadeus, presents one of the finest examples of ambulance chasing lawyers. His character, “Brillstein,” is comically irritating with his frantic energy and unscrupulous demeanor. He is wonderfully representative of the worst that can come out of a tragedy.

John Turturro (Barton Fink) plays “Dr. Bill Perlman,” a psychiatrist who specializes in post-traumatic stress syndrome. He is able to help all of the survivors, except for Max and Carla. He brings them together in hopes that the two extremes can find a middle ground and find some peace with their losses. For her, to find life. And for him, to realize that death is only a matter of time.

Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet) and Benicio del Toro (21 Grams) give fantastic supporting performances as the survivors' spouses. Rossellini as a woman desperately trying to find her way back into her husband’s heart. And Del Toro as a completely clueless blue-collar guy who thinks his child’s death should be worth as much money as he can get.

Fearless is a bold and heartbreaking film, and ultimately inspiring.


Fearless was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress (Rosie Perez).

Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Oct 2, 2008 4:57pm
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