Jesse Gall

Meryl Streep Flashback: The River Wild (1994)

In Reviews on June 10, 2011 at 4:50 pm

I feel like I reference The River Wild any chance I can when I’m near the river or the wild. Considering I’ve moved next to a river and in view of the wild, I’ve been referencing it a lot. Too much not to watch it again.

There is something classic about this film that dates beyond its time of production. It evokes the human suspense and lingering anxieties that riddled so many films of the 70s and 80s. Long shots followed by sharp and extended high notes shrieking from the score pepper this dateless thriller.

Evoking classic external conflicts, this river thrillers sifts through the plot with a force similar to the white rapids raging the storyline on. It’s so refreshing to see a film that offers interesting and simple conflicts, with little to no additional flair. The River Wild rests on itself, confidently and effortlessly going on without feeling the need to add or disgust, like so many thrillers are designed today. Gone are the days where suspense movies could rely on haunting shots of a menacing man simply standing on a tree with the moon behind him to illicit their chills, like The River Wild does so brilliantly with Kevin Bacon.

And of course I couldn’t write a decent homage to this film without referencing its dazzling heroine. Meryl Streep cries, kills, yells, jokes, laughs, and oh yeah, did all of her own stunts. And she does it so freaking well. The film is anchored around her goodness and Kevin Bacon’s badness, the two circling around each other in such an exhilarating and tireless struggle.

It was never going to win any Oscars, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a nearly flawless exercise of seamless storytelling, understated cinematography, and a near-shocking clinic of subtle direction. I was surprised at the film this time around. I didn’t know it was so good. I have always loved it, but I don’t think I ever really noticed it.

Until the end, the Mended Blend

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