(Air Date: Week Of 3/2/94)
The conventions of the air disaster film are fairly well-established: 100 minutes of ground level flashbacks and premonitory exposition followed by twenty minutes of an actual crisis. Leave it to one of the world's finest directors to find a vivid new way to tell a wrenchingly familiar story. His new film, "Fearless" begins quietly in a corn field. The plane has already crashed. A passenger named Max Klein (beautifully played by Jeff Bridges) is searching for the mother of the baby he carries in his arms. He moves as if he's in a trance, which, in fact, he is.
After his near-death experience, Max becomes disconnected from life, convinced that he's invulnerable and nothing can kill him. He wanders away from the scene of the crash, checks into a motel, has breakfast with an old friend, ordering a dish that is ordinarily fatal to him: strawberries. The authorities finally return him to his wife (Isabella Rossellini) and family, but he remains detached, unable to muster up the desire to return to his old life. He refuses to cooperate with his lawyer (Tom Hulce) and when a doctor (John Turturro) retained by the airline tries to counsel him, he hits him.
The only person for whom he feels anything is a fellow passenger, a grief-stricken young mother (movingly played by Oscar nominee Rosie Perez) who is tearing herself apart with guilt over the death of her baby son. They develop a real friendship that is quite rare in contemporary films: at no time is the question of sex ever discussed: that is not the point of their friendship. Max senses that he can help this woman as no one else can, what he does not understand, until almost too late, is how desperately he needs help as well.
Ultimately, director Weir has it both ways in this completely satisfying film: in "Fearless", he is able to reveal both the magnetic force his own mortality has for Max and at the same time, his deeply human struggle to re-connect with life in his own way. And, by repeating the pre-crash images over and over again, each time revealing a bit more about the people in the plane, Weir sustains a mood that fully captures the horror and mystery of random death.
Copyright 1994 Monica Sullivan
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