Weekend Watch: Mamet pushes Hopkins to ‘The Edge’

News & Politics

In his 2023 Hollywood memoir, “Everywhere an Oink Oink,” playwright and director David Mamet ponders the actor’s craft:

The basic skills involved in acting are all prosaic. They are the ability to speak clearly, to enunciate, to move purposefully (and gracefully, if possible), to hold still-but-not-immobile. These can be learned. And must be learned. The result of their acquisition may be a competent actor, one suitable on for set dressing, or a star.

What exactly is it that makes the difference between mere actor and star? Mamet is willing to concede that whatever it is, you either have it or you don’t.

Embodying the flamboyant villain Hannibal Lecter made Anthony Hopkins a star; here, he pulls off an arguably more difficult feat: making calm, quiet authority utterly compelling.

So, it is with a certain instinct for survival. Each of us can prepare for disaster, but not all of us have the will to keep going at any cost.

In his fascinating book “Deep Survival,” Laurence Gonzales considers the accounts of those who have prevailed over truly desperate conditions and finds a few common denominators. One is a capacity to enjoy the struggle to live. “Survival depends on utility, but it also depends on joy, for joy is the organism telling itself that it is all right.”

The talents for acting and for survival converge in the 1997 movie “The Edge.” Directed by Lee Tamahori from a script by Mamet, “The Edge” is a gripping thriller built on that most elemental of conflicts: man vs. nature.

Embodying the flamboyant villain Hannibal Lecter made Anthony Hopkins a star; here, he pulls off an arguably more difficult feat: making calm, quiet authority utterly compelling.

Billionaire Charles Morse has the kind of wealth that could insulate him from every kind of discomfort the world has to offer, yet it’s clear that he retains the humility of a man who often ponders his own inevitable death.

“Did you know that you can make fire from ice?” Morse says to his bemused companions early in the film. And he’s full of such gnomic wisdom, especially after the plane he and two friends are traveling in crashes in the Alaskan wilderness.

What follows is a tense battle against the elements, hunger, and a bloodthirsty bear. Other, man-made conflicts come into play as well, eventually. “We’re all put to the test … but it never comes in the form or at the point we would prefer, does it?” remarks Morse. “The Edge” is a movie that may have you wondering how you’d fare in similar straits.

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