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Though Gail, a Boston mom and wife,
Is having doubts on married life,
Her husband Tom is fixed on work
And seems to Roarke, their son, a jerk.
A birthday trip for Roarke out west
For river rafting has a guest
When Tom then brings work with him there
To show his family he does care.
They meet two men named Wade and Terry,
Who seem friendly, nice, and merry.
As work distracts, Tom still offends,
While Wade and Roarke become good friends.
But, as they paddle down the river,
Wade starts giving Gail a shiver.
When Gail and Tom have had enough,
They try to flee with all their stuff,
But Roarke is clueless as to why
And lets Wade catch them ere they fly.
They see Gail’s plan so Wade and Terry
Turn into villains, mean and scary.
They robbed an auction, and their scheme
Involves escaping far downstream.
They lost their guide so Gail, they knew,
Would have to get them safely through.
Wade shoots at their dog, who’s quick to run,
And ties them down, armed with a gun.
As hostages aboard the raft,
The trio can’t escape the craft,
But one night, Tom is forced to flee
And gets away quite narrowly.
He runs ahead past rabid falls
And sets a trap ‘twixt canyon walls.
Though Gail attempts to gain release,
The duo need her expertise.
The deadly Gauntlet lies ahead
And causes her continued dread.
Through swirling rapids kept taboo,
Gale guides them as they paddle through.
The other side sees Tom’s trap sprung,
And in the water, all are flung.
Gail gets the gun, and, once he’s pled,
Wade gives her cause to shoot him dead.
The cops are called to fetch the men,
And Gail and Tom are close again.

I first saw The River Wild more recently than most of the films on my list, and it’s one of those movies that surprised me as being much better than I expected. Meryl Streep gives a less acclaimed but no less brilliant performance as distressed mother Gail, who matches wits, if not muscle, with two violent thieves. (Plus, she had to learn sign language and rafting skills and did most of her own stunts.) Kevin Bacon is equally well-cast in a villainous role, and both earned Golden Globe nominations for their roles. Though he doesn’t actually carry out a violent act until near the end, he gives every indication that he would not hesitate in the slightest. He may not be the most memorable of villains, but he is bad. Just imagine if he had superpowers or something (see X-Men: First Class). John C. Reilly as Terry and Joseph Mazzello (Jurassic Park) as Roarke also fill their roles well, and this is now the fourth David Strathairn (Tom) film on my list; you’ll see him again.

The Montana/Oregon scenery is really spectacular, and, aside from the tension Wade brings to the party, the rafting scenes are true highlights, particularly the final running of the Gauntlet. Having gone rafting with my dad down the Nantahala River in North Carolina, I know how thrilling it can be, and this film gives a taste of it for those who perhaps haven’t experienced it themselves.

Many criticized the film for its predictability and lack of credibility, such as when Tom outruns the raft down the rushing river, and, while these complaints have some credence, it doesn’t detract from the movie as a whole. It’s an entertaining ride that rushes along nicely and even manages a laudable endorsement of sticking with a difficult marriage early on.

Best line: (Gail, to Roarke at the beginning of the trip) “You’re gonna scream your guts out, you’ll be so happy.”

Artistry: 6
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 8
Visual Effects: 8
Originality: 5
Watchability: 7
Other (some language): -3
TOTAL: 38 out of 60

Next: #234 – The Artist

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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