A Few Unlikely Adventure Films

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From The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

 

Some films to warm the soul, spark the mind and ignite what needs igniting . . .

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Walter Mitty is single, middle-aged and lonely.  His life is painfully mundane, and he copes with his mediocrity by escaping into a fantastical imaginary world where he is a much-loved superhero and risk-taker.

He has a job with LIFE magazine, sitting in a dark basement examining negatives of grand adventurers for publication in the magazine.  He is about to be fired.

Before they let him go he is cast off on a wild adventure to Greenland, then Afghanistan to uncover the mystery behind a negative that he has misplaced and needs to recover.

During these adventures his imaginary world collides with his real life as he begins to live his dreams.  In the process he is overcome by an abiding peace and contentment.  Shot in Iceland and the States, this is a beautiful film with a great soundtrack.  Some of the shots are exquisite.  I really recommend it.

180 Degrees South

Made in collaboration with the brand Patagonia, this meditative documentary charts the path of Jeff Johnson, an itinerant wanderer travelling from California to Patagonia, following in the footsteps of Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, who made a similar journey before creating the brand.

The film follows Jeff as he sails slowly down the coast, surfing, exploring Easter Island and dealing with various setbacks along the way.  His chilled out, slow journey south is driven by his goal of climbing Cerro Corcovado, a remote volcano in Patagonia.

This film is reflective, calm and infused with the peace of a journey guided by intuition and acceptance.

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Surfing in Patagonia, 180 Degrees South

Point Break

For something totally different!  A 90s classic, this is an action thriller which is redeemed by the grounding influence of the ocean, a constant presence throughout the film.  It’s the story of many things, but the main piece is Johnny Utah, an FBI agent who has been tasked with investigating a bunch of bank robberies by a gang of outlaws in California.

Police suspect that a crew of surfers is behind it, so Utah goes undercover, infiltrating the local scene and learning to surf.  The normal things happen – his life is transformed by the ocean, he falls in love with a stunning surfer chick and gets entangled with the alpha male (Bohdi, a soulful surfer: passionate, selfish, uncompromising and somewhat lost).  In the end, beautiful justice is done.  It is an awesome movie I keep coming back to.

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Point Break

Chocolat

This is a romance film.  So if you don’t like them you can skip this one.  It’s about fear and shutting down, and love and opening up.

Vianne, her daughter Anoush and her imaginary kangaroo friend Pontoof are drifters, moving on foot from town to town following the north wind. Free and unburdened by the social conventions that influence the lives of those around them, when they arrive in a small, conservative village and open a chocolaterie during Lent, their presence upsets the balance.

As the townspeople are exposed to Vianne’s warmth, generosity and openness, people begin to reassess their lives and the values of those who seek to control them.  Destructive relationships unravel, stale power structures fall apart and the oppressed and unseen discover acceptance, strength and love.

Of course Vianne has her own lessons to learn.  When a bunch of gypsies arrive in town she falls in love and finds herself reflecting on her life choices.  It all sounds rather hackneyed I’m sure, and maybe it is, but I enjoyed it the first time and still do.

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Juliette Binoche in Chocolat

Chasing Ice

This is a documentary about James Balog, a nature photographer with an almost unthinkably epic goal: to set up stills cameras next to remote glaciers in Greenland, Iceland and Alaska to track the retreat of the glaciers using time-lapse photography.

Initially a climate change skeptic, after Balog visited some of these areas he became convinced not only of the existence of anthropogenic climate change but the urgency of spreading the word about it.  His vision was simple: a series of images depicting the rapid retreat of glaciers across the planet’s north.

The scale of the actual task is wildly unfathomable though: hiking repeatedly into remote glaciers with cameras ill-equipped to handle the rugged cliffs and moraine, windswept and freezing.  Success doesn’t come immediately and the film is as much about James’ journey as it is about the glaciers.  Some of the footage it absolutely confounding, beautiful and shocking.  This isn’t exactly a feel-good film but it opens the world up a little and I think it’s worth seeing.

2.12.08 | Iceland/Svínafellsjökull Glacier An EIS team member provides scale in a massive landscape of crevasses on the Svínafellsjökull Glacier in Iceland.

2.12.08 | Iceland/Svínafellsjökull Glacier
An EIS team member provides scale in a massive landscape of crevasses on the Svínafellsjökull Glacier in Iceland.

Man on Wire

Phillippe Petit had a singular desire: to walk a tightrope between the Twin Towers in New York.  After years of training and tireless planning he executed his plan in 1974, evading the tight net of security guards and somehow managing to not only rig but also walk his line hundreds of metres above the city streets without a safety net.  His performance was described as magical, sublime, ecstatic.  Now, an ageing man, he reflects on that time in his life.

The film is a nostalgic pastiche of old footage and stills alongside modern re-enactments following his journey to get to New York, a journey that, like most that end in a moment of perfection, isn’t particularly glamorous, but is characterised by dedication and commitment.  His friends play a major role, supporting and sharing in the adventure, utterly moved by the beauty of what they achieved together.

There is something unspeakably beautiful about this story.  A man with a fierce dedication to a dream that is both immaterial and exquisite.  The perfect simplicity of a single moment of pure, unadulterated focus.   Man on Wire is suspenseful and nostalgic, idealistic and brutally honest.  It just got me.

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Phillippe Petit, Man on Wire

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