River Wild/A-,A
Universal/1994/112/ANA 2.35

     The big buzz before the release of The River Wild was how well was Meryl Streep going to fit into the shoes of an action heroine. It's quickly apparent that this is a non issue as the fine actress makes the most of her part a woman battling the sedate waters of a marriage on the rocks and the wild white water of the raging river's rapids. Streep proves her mettle under harrowing physical conditions in piecing together a character with a strong emotional center in the midst of the high powered tension delivered up with able skill by director Curtis Hanson.

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Streep in command.  Universal

       When former white water rafting guide Gail plans a family trip to expose her young son Rourke to the thrill of running the big water in her home state of Montana, the natural beauty surrounding the river is not all that's in store for them. The encounter with a dubious trio of male rafters at the outset of the rafting trip and the last minute surprise arrival of her husband Frank are clear indications that the rocky ride down the river will be strewn with other than natural obstacles.
     While the script is tightly constructed, what sets this actioner above the norm is precise execution of every production aspect. Led by Streep, the actors all do a splendid job. Kevin Bacon supplies rafter on the run Wade with a combination of easy friendliness and unpredictable explosiveness. Bacon breathes a psychotic energy into his role without going over the top. David Strathairn is convincing as Tom, Gail's architect husband, and Joseph Mazzello follows up his stint in Jurassic Park with another fine kid performance. Hanson proves to have a keen sense of suspense pacing and makes excellent use of all the cards in his deck of director's tricks. The photography of the Montana wilds is nothing short of spectacular and the action scenes on the water are breathtaking. Director of Photography Robert Elswit proves a major asset for The River Wild. Take note of the unusual water free lenses that present images unimpaired by the presence of the normally ubiquitous droplets. A special device was uses that blew the water away from the camera lens, but traveled at velocities which were not recorded on the film. The musical score by Jerry Goldsmith, who was brought in as a late replacement, is terrific. It captures the beauty and menace of the river and helps tie the powerful images together.
     The River Wild has been turned into a ravishing DVD. The very sharp images that played havoc with the limitations of the laser bring the action to brilliant life in this anamorphic 2.35 transfer. The colors are vital, saturation natural. The Dolby 5:1 surround is beautiful. Jerry Goldsmith's score, featuring horns singing above the water, has never sounded better. And the pounding of the rushing water is totally involving.






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