The Edge is a 1997 American survival film directed by Lee Tamahori and starring Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin. A plane carrying wealthy Charles Morse (Hopkins) crashes down in the Alaskan wilderness. Together with the two other passengers, photographer Bob Green (Baldwin) and assistant Stephen (Harold Perrineau), Charles devises a plan to help them reach civilization. However, his biggest obstacle might not be the elements, or even a large Kodiak bear stalking them -- it could be Bob, whom Charles has reason to believe is having an affair with his wife and would not mind seeing him dead. Bart the Bear, a trained Kodiak bear known for appearances in several Hollywood movies, also appears in the film as the vicious Kodiak; this was one of his last film roles.
Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins), a billionaire; Robert "Bob" Green (Alec Baldwin), a photographer; and Stephen (Harold Perrineau), Bob's assistant; arrive in a remote Alaskan village with Charles' wife, Mickey (Elle Macpherson), a model. Styles (L.Q. Jones), the proprietor of the lodge, warns everyone about not leaving uncovered food that will attract bears. Charles is surprised with a birthday party where Mickey gives him an engraved pocket watch and Bob gives a hunting knife. Another of Charles's valued possessions is a book with instruction and advice for surviving in the wild. During key moments early on, he is often shown losing the thread of conversations because he is so absorbed in his reading.
During a photo shoot, Charles observes Bob and Mickey kissing platonically. The three men fly to a location to find a local Alaskan man (Gordon Tootoosis), for photographs. A note on his door indicates he is miles away bear hunting. They fly north where the man is supposed to be hunting. During the flight, Charles asks Bob how he is planning to kill him. Before Bob can answer, the plane strikes a flock of birds and nose-dives into a lake, killing the pilot. Charles, Bob, and Stephen barely reach shore. Lost in the crash is Charles's survival book.
After building a fire and spending the night on the lake shore, the three men attempt to hike the next day to a more likely search area, only to find a vicious male Kodiak bear stalking them. While crossing a makeshift bridge trying to elude the bear, Charles falls into the rapids. Bob saves him, leaving Charles doubting his earlier suspicions about Bob's intentions. The group becomes lost and Stephen wounds his leg. That night, the bear attacks their camp, killing Stephen and chasing the other two away.
The two men see a rescue helicopter in the distance. They attempt to flag it down, but the pilot does not see them, forcing them to find their own way back to civilization.
The bear eventually finds Charles and Bob again and stalks them through the wilderness. Forced to keep running and hiding from the bear, the two men are unable to rest or look for food. Charles decides that they must kill the bear, otherwise it will catch and kill them or they will starve to death. Charles uses his hunting knife to sharpen the ends of long branches to make spears. The next day, the bear attacks them again. They manage to lure it into a river. The bear attacks Bob but Charles distracts it, luring it away. Charles repeatedly stabs at the bear with his spear, but the bear's thick hide and fat render his strikes ineffective. As the bear corners him against a pile of logs at the river's edge, Charles positions his spear at a partially upward angle with the other end wedged between rocks to stabilize it. The bear lunges, and as it crashes down onto Charles, its own weight fatally impales itself on Charles' spear. The two men now have their first food source since they were stranded: bear meat.
Following the river south, the men find an empty cabin. Charles notices a deadfall, while Bob rushes into the cabin. They find supplies, including a canoe, rifle, and ammunition. While Bob is checking if the canoe is usable, Charles finds a receipt in his pocket to use as tinder. The receipt contains information confirming his suspicions about his wife's infidelities with Bob.
When Bob returns to the cabin, he reveals that he plans to kill Charles for his wife. He orders Charles outside, but before he is able to kill him, Bob falls into the deadfall, despite Charles's attempt to warn him. Bob is badly injured and begs Charles for his help. Charles removes Bob from the pit and tends to his wounds. They go downriver in the canoe together.
Charles makes camp with a fire to keep Bob warm. Bob apologizes for betraying Charles and says Mickey was unaware he intended to murder him. A helicopter appears and Charles successfully attracts its attention, but Bob dies before the helicopter lands.
Charles is brought back to the lodge and reveals to his wife that he is aware of her betrayal by handing her Bob's watch. He states to the press that the other men died, "saving my life."
- Anthony Hopkins as Charles Morse
- Alec Baldwin as Robert "Bob" Green
- Harold Perrineau as Stephen
- Elle Macpherson as Mickey Morse
- L. Q. Jones as Styles
- Kathleen Wilhoite as Ginny
- David Lindstedt as James
- Mark Kiely as Mechanic
- Eli Gabay as Jet Pilot
- Larry Musser as Amphibian Pilot
- Gordon Tootoosis as Jack Hawk
- Kelsa Kinsly as Reporter
- Bart the Bear as the Kodiak bear
Principal photography began on August 19, 1996. Footage was taken primarily in Alberta, Canada. Among the Alberta locations were Banff National Park, Canmore, Edmonton, Thunderstone Quarries, Fortress Ski Resort and Allarcom Studios. Additional scenes were shot in Yoho National Park and Golden, both in British Columbia. Filming ended on November 22, 1996.
The shooting of the film is discussed by Art Linson in his 2002 book What Just Happened?, later made into a film starring Robert De Niro. Initially called Bookworm, the script was turned down by Harrison Ford and Dustin Hoffman before Alec Baldwin settled on the role of Green. De Niro showed some interest in the role of Morse but ultimately declined. Baldwin's unwillingness to shave a beard that he had grown for the role is reenacted by Bruce Willis in Barry Levinson's adaptation of Linson's book.
Like many other actors who had worked with Bart the Bear, Baldwin was extremely impressed with how well-trained and docile the bear was. During interviews, he revealed that during filming he was concerned that the film simply wouldn't work because of how docile Bart was. After the film was completed, Baldwin commented that Bart "should send the film editor a fruit basket every day for making him look so scary." As for Hopkins, who had worked with Bart in Legends of the Fall, he "was absolutely brilliant with Bart," according to trainer Lynn Seus, who went on to say that Hopkins "acknowledged and respected (Bart) like a fellow actor. He would spend hours just looking at Bart and admiring him. He did so many of his own scenes with Bart."
Three months before the film was to be released, the studio felt Bookworm needed a more commercial title. Dozens of others were considered, according to Linson, until the film was renamed The Edge.
- Main article: The Edge (soundtrack)
The film's musical score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, who worked closely with director Lee Tamahori to develop a score more diverse than other works by Goldsmith in the 1990s. Initially, the score was released on CD in 1997, upon the film's release, by RCA Records. Over time, the first release went out of print, leading to La-La Land Records issuing a limited 3500-unit pressing of the complete score, which was also out of print by July 2013. The new release contains 25 minutes of unreleased music and fixes a problem found on the RCA release affecting the track "Rescued", which contained rustling noises during some quieter parts.
The Edge had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada on September 6, 1997. It was released in the U.S. on September 26, 1997 in 2,351 theaters. It grossed $7.7 million in its opening weekend. It went on to gross $27.8 million in the U.S. and $15.4 million overseas, for a worldwide total of $43.3 million in its theatrical run.
- Main article: The Edge (video)
Following its initial release on VHS, The Edge was released on a non-anamorphic widescreen NTSC DVD in the US, with no extras, save the original theatrical trailer. Meanwhile, PAL DVDs released in Europe, Australia, etc. feature an anamorphic transfer, the trailer, a six-minute featurette, seven short cast and crew interviews and five text biographies. As of 2017, it has also been released on Blu-ray in the US and Germany, with the same extras as each country's DVD.
Upon release, The Edge received mixed to positive reviews from critics. Based on 50 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a 64% approval rating from critics, with an average score of 6.38/10. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, claiming the filmmakers did well by not going berserk with the action sequences as other films do. But, he did go on to criticize the ending by saying that:
- “Having successfully negotiated almost its entire 118 minutes, The Edge shoots itself in the foot. After the emotionally fraught final moments, just as we are savoring the implications of what has just happened, the screen fades to black and we immediately get a big credit for Bart the Bear. Now Bart is one helluva bear (I loved him in the title role of The Bear), but this credit in this place is a spectacularly bad idea.”
- ―Roger Ebert
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