Volume 92, Issue 92
Tuesday, March 23, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Ravenous leaves movie-goers hungry
Photo by Michal Fairaizl
Who's hungry? We've got tongues, intestines, digits and dipping sauce...
Ravenous is a film which oscillates between scenes of intense excitement and scenes which drag, creating a movie which cannot maintain the level it is capable of.
Set in 1847, the film follows Captain John Boyd (Guy Pearce, L.A. Confidential) as he is exiled to a secluded military outpost in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Once there, he and the other soldiers encounter Colonel Ives (Robert Carlyle, The Full Monty), a man who takes the term carnivore to an entirely new level. Soon, Boyd must choose between eating his fellow soldiers or becoming the next entree.
Presented for moral consideration is the issue of eating another human to save one's own life. This is the choice Boyd must make. Thrown in for further contemplation is an Indian legend called Weendigo, which says the man who eats the flesh of another will assume that man's strength and spirit.
The movie excels when it depicts the heart-pounding game of cat and mouse between Boyd and Ives. This is enhanced by the bleak, forsaken landscape and their dreary base camp, which creates many dark hiding spots. Whether they are stampeding through the forest or engaged in lethal games of hide-and-seek, Pearce and Carlyle's roles give the film an intense edge.
As the cannibalistic colonel, Carlyle is exceptional. He provides a truly eerie performance, with a carnivorous gleam in his eye throughout the whole film. When he is not crazed for human flesh, he cunningly toys with those around him. Carlyle is clearly securing a place as one of the best actors working today.
Pearce delivers an uneven performance as the disgraced captain. There are moments when he is excellent, particularly when he is sparring with Carlyle. However, he often sports a stunned look on his face which makes one wonder whether he is thinking about the scene or his dry-cleaning.
The film's music, by Michael Nyman and Blur's Damon Albarn, is a fascinating score which often finds a solitary banjo layered over symphonic orchestration. The result is a jarring, spooky soundtrack which lends a chilling depth to the atmosphere of the film.
However, the film trips when it is not relying on edge-of-the-seat excitement. There is too much down-time during which Pearce ponders his predicament. The purpose of this movie is to leave the audience chilled, not to provide in-depth character analysis. Although it reaches for this depth, Pearce's continual brooding does not shed any new light on the situation. The end result is the audience clamoring for another camp fire.
Ravenous wets the appetite, but in the end leaves its consumers a little unfulfilled.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999