Ossus Library Index Thriller Index


Directed by Carroll Ballard (1992, Columbia Tristar)
Starring Jennifer Grey, Matthew Modine, Cliff Robertson, and Stellan Skarsgard

An American crew designs and races a sailboat to try and win back sail-racing's America's Cup.

Viewed 3 times



5 stars

April 26th, 2003 on DVD  
    A beautiful movie, both in terms of scenery, cinematography, and the sailboats.

I remember the first time I saw this movie, on the big screen. Seeing the boats literally flying through the water was truly amazing. The way this film was shot, any big screen puts the viewer right on the sailboats.

The races were quite exciting, dramatically. The director and cinematographer did such an amazing job, featuring the race from unique angles, along all of the boats, that they barely needed any dialog to accompany them -which is good, because they don't get it.

That is probably the biggest problem with this movie, which is a small one, really. The scenery takes front stage, letting the sailboats be the main characters at that point, so that the human characters become secondary.

The movie is split into three parts. The first part is training for and sailing America's Cup in the US, which is exciting enough. The entire movie is a character study between Will and Kate, sailors by nature, but who walk different paths. I love the race between the smaller boats, which Will and Kate nearly win, but fall over because he loses his balance -foreshadowing that he is not ready for this challenge.

They both have dreams, and his is to serve on a boat that wins America's Cup. He tries to include her, but unfortunately, there is no choice when he is forced to either resign from the race because she was cut from the boat, or to stay and be chief tactician on the race boat. The rift that forms stays with them for the rest of the movie.

Through a series of errors and mishaps, including a very serious accident, Will hands the Americans their first defeat ever in this race, an event that has been going on for over 130 years. It isn't really his fault, as the skipper was talking to him at a critical moment, distracting him, and the skipper also ignored his advice at critical moments. The defeat crushes them all.

The second part of the movie doesn't take place in the water at all (excepting the design swimming pool and a small river). Kate went off to design gliders and aircraft in an aeronautical engineering research centre (really just a run-down hangar in the middle of nowhere), and Will goes out there to find her. The requisite love triangle emerges when he discovers that she and Joe, the chief designer, are lovers.

The fun comes when Joe takes an interest in America's Cup, in designing a new sailboat, with Will. This irks Kate; I think she is bothered at how well they get along! They don't really get along, though. In what is probably the movie's funniest scene, they argue about the role of mathematics and intuition in the boat design, followed immediately by a scene where they are constantly deferring to each other, congratulating each other on the brilliance of the designs, each trying to be more humble than the other!

To gain funding, Will goes back to his old skipper, who refuses him, but he finds money and love (sex, at least), in the skipper's daughter. She and Joe are able to raise enough money from the private sector to build the boat.

The fun, for me, of this part of the movie is the aeronautical design. Watching them do experiments in the water, similar to my water tunnel, the dynamics of flight (and the words Reynolds number actually make it into the movie!), and attaching the sail to Kate's truck, not to mention their renewed interest in each other during the wind storm, were all great to see.

The last part of the movie is regaining America's Cup from the Australians who beat them the last time. This one contains the least dialog, but it's also a lot of fun, and is quite exciting. It's unfortunate that we don't get to see too many of the other races, but given the character development the movie needs, that's understandable. More mishaps make the two races that we do see rather fun, as well. It's inevitable that Kate will become tactician at Will's side, especially after race six, where the previous tactician caused a collision by underestimating the distance between the boats. The press conference is hilarious, with the accusations running back and forth. I really liked the Australian skipper. He was a real competitor, but not an evil guy. It was almost as heartbreaking to see him lose as for our guys -but not quite. It's cool to see the Geronimo team spirit when they give their spare mast to the competition so that they can race the next day.

Of course, the Americans seem to get a lot of men down, as on the next and final race, another man goes overboard with their sail. To make up the time lost while saving him, they have to use Kate's new sail, the Whomper. She gets a hilarious line out of it, too, something along the lines of "the whomper -you know: when you put it up, it expands with a huge sound like whomp!", then proceeds to call him names for not knowing about it when she designed it in the desert.

The other cool scene comes when the wind dies in the Australian seas. After a long wait, Kate sees the wind approaching on the water surface, managing to get them a four boat lead before the other boat figures it out. She knew all of the technical details -even being the first woman to sail in America's Cup. This is one of the few specific scenes that has stayed with me since the last time I saw the movie.

We get to see Will grow up in the third part, as well, as he finally gets to tell his old skipper that he doesn't need him. Will was ready to lead, now.

So Geronimo wins the race, of course, just coming a nose ahead of the Australians, in what was a terrific finale. The Australian sea seemed a lot rougher than the American one, and I wonder if they filmed in different parts of the world to get that effect.

That is the real shortcoming of this DVD- the fact that there are no behind-the-scenes features at all. Not even the crappy Entertainment Tonight ones. All we get is the theatrical trailer (among two others), which shows us scenes that were not in the movie. We definitely could have used some deleted scenes here. Or even music during the menus. Because the music throughout the movie was spectacular. It was really epic, and built through the races, and even became triumphant during the desert trials.

My only other real complaint is the quick ending. The movie went by so quickly, that I didn't feel the over-two-hours pass, so I could have used some closure to everything. Ending on the big race was fine, but I would have liked to see more than just a kiss as reconciliation between Will and Kate. I think Joe and Abigail, the millionaire's daughter, actually fell in love, but can't prove it.

I really love this movie, because it is so exciting, and triumphant. It features such beautiful photography (and Jennifer Grey -wow!) that even though I don't know anything about sailing (but lots about aerodynamics), it really drew me in and captivated me. I don't understand why it was not successful in theatres or with movie fans, because it has all of the elements needed for a satisfying movie.


Back to Top

All reviews and page designs at this site Copyright (c)  by Warren Dunn, all rights reserved.