23 January 2007 | ridleyrules
Top Gun-style coast guard movie has a heart
Rick Symons (a handsome Kevin Janssens) is a maverick diver in the Belgian navy. His actions embarrass his superiors and he is reassigned to the 40th division of the air force. In Belgium, the coast guard is a part of the army. His new job is to rescue people lost at sea, while being towed down from a helicopter.
At the coast guard, he has to team up with a young nurse, Alex (Veerle Baetend, with a girl-next-door type of charm). Alex had to fight for her position in this masculine world. There is also Marleen (Tine Reymer) and her wheel-chaired husband Koen (Axel Daeseleire). Rick knows them from the past, but how are they connected?
When you are at sea, rescuing people under hazardous conditions, your life depends on the men and women you work with. Alex hears that Rick can't be trusted and brings his co-workers in danger. Alex has to decide if she wants to be in the same team with him.
This is the beginning of a story that alternates between high thrills action and human emotional drama: On one side, there is grand action adventure in the air and at sea, On the other, is the drama of complex relations between friends and colleagues. On both aspects, this movie really delivers. The rescue actions are quite spectacular and thrilling. The human side of the story is brought convincingly and feels real.
I felt a lump in my throat quite a couple of times. It was not hard to identify with the characters on the screen. The picture is very efficient in introducing the characters. Without many words being spoken, you get to know who these people are and you feel a connection with them almost immediately. Well, at least I did.
This movie is drawn on the same template as 1986's Top Gun. It features an exciting part of the army, with brave and charming protagonists. Like Top Gun, this movie sometimes feels like a long job recruitment commercial, in this case for the coast guard. Who wouldn't want to be working with these people who do such dangerous but admirable work? Although filmed apparently with a much lower budget than its US air force example (the equivalent of USD 5 million), this picture easily matches the quality of photography and the delivery of exciting action.
I think this movie succeeds even better on the human side of the story. Although the elements of the story are nothing that we have not seen before elsewhere, the portrayals of the main characters are convincing enough and carry depth. This side of the movie made more impact on me during one theater visit than Top Gun did during 7 or 8 viewings.
The movie is beautifully shot in Cinemascope. Unfortunately the filmmakers seemed to be fond of their digital toolbox and gave many scenes a yellow glow. At times this felt a bit overdone. The scoring by Matt Dunkley (who I didn't know) is quite adequate and never becomes noticeable, which usually is a good sign.
I have not seen the original TV-series "Windkracht 10" (translates to "Wind Force 10"), on which this movie is based. I have also not yet seen the 2006 US coast guard drama "The Guardian", which touches on the same line of work. So I have no direct comparison. I liked this one, though.
I recommend this movie to anybody who likes adventure stories mixed with human drama. Just don't expect an original and unpredictable story.
I rate this movie 8 out of 10, so quite high, because it really struck a chord with me. I can't go any higher, because of the "job commercial", glamorizing aspects and lack of originality in the script. So my verdict: 8/10.
Release / language trivia: The spoken language is Dutch, or rather the Belgian dialect also called Flemish. (Of course, the usual air force jargon is spoken, which is mostly English). In neighboring country The Netherlands, where Dutch is the national language, the movie is shown in theaters with Dutch subtitles. I must say, that this makes the dialog easier to follow.
Marketing trivia: This (for local production standards) big budget movie has been released in a very limited way in the Netherlands. This, in spite of its potential appeal to a wide audience. There has not been much promotion. I saw this movie in its first week on a Monday night with no more than 10 people at the only screening of the day.
International release expectations: Although the film does not seem to aim at the Anglosaxon world, it should do well in other international markets. Especially in regions with sea coasts, this should be a recognizable story. Audiences that are used to seeing their movies dubbed or subtitled anyways, would enjoy the high production values and universal themes. Also, the humor is mostly physical (no word jokes) and there is no frontal nudity or extreme violence.