23 October 2015 | photoe
Two Greats Make A TV Movie Work
This movie does Jack London's sailing yarn Sea Wolf real justice for an average budget attempt.
One thing that strikes me is how far away we are from the history of the sea in our modern world, and how great London's writing really is in this story, weaving the rawest tenets of human struggle into what was then one of the primary economic engines of the world, the commerce of the ocean-going fishing, whaling, or here, sealing ship. Of course, the sea tale is such a romantic notion, ironic in that it was so tough to actually live, and offers a writer so much because the characters are all stuck together in a constant state of peril from without, and this magnifies the sense of the peril between them.
Reeve is brilliant as an educated man of position facing the rawest of worlds far from where he was raised. He runs into another intellectual of sorts, a captain who has scrambled from poverty to occupy a position of pure power, which he holds in purely Machiavellian ways. Reeve's true sensitivity comes out in the role, acting as foil to the pure cynicism of Bronson's Captain Larsen, begging for mercy for others and for good when possible. I kept being struck at how strong, virile, and yet kind and warm Reeve seemed in the role, and the strength he would need as his own life took such an awful turn not long after this movie.
Bronson also gets his licks in as a man who has seen empathy repaid with betrayal so many times, he sees empathy only as weakness and vulnerability, and considering his surroundings, he makes an excellent case. The story sets these two forces, two approaches to life against each other, and basically never resolves them, which is good, because a resolution would be too facile. Both men stick to who they are. There are times when Bronson seems less than on, but his previous persona lends itself well here, lending him the previous strength, but I can tell he approached the role in a different way than his other tough guy roles. He created a real weakness in the rigidity of this character and conveys a fairly broken man who still knows how to be a brutal and effective leader. He isn't a wisecracker, here though. He's a weakening man in a tough shell. Bronson is past his peak here, but still rivets the viewer, especially a fan. I would've pegged Bronson for 60 here, but he was 70 when he made this film.
THe supporting cast runs the gamut from great to average, with a couple given exceptional moment in London's story. I enjoyed seeing two actors 20+ years later, now both gone. They really were both great.