Crusoe (1988) Review
“Crusoe” is a reinterpretation of the classic story of “Robinson Crusoe” and it’s a very good one. Director Caleb Deschanel makes full use of the props of the era and the spectacular natural island setting to create a film worth watching for the visuals alone. There is just something about old sailing ships and the ocean that captures the imagination.
I have to believe that Bob Zemeckis had to have watched this in preparation for filming “Cast Away”. Many of the exact story elements turn up throughout. This movie is not nearly as ‘loud’ as that one, though. And “Crusoe” never resorts to melodrama or using the music score to drum up emotional moments.
Don’t think I’m knocking “Cast Away”, either. I love that film. I’m just trying to get across the idea of how non-Hollywood this film is. When Tom Hanks succeeds or fails in “Cast Away” the scene is highlighted by theatrical outbursts. “Crusoe” never seems to be playing to an audience. The telling of the story is low key and dialogue is not needed for the most part.
Aidan Quinn is quite believable as Crusoe, a slave trader marooned on a desert island. There are no large proclamations of what he’s thinking or melodramatic emotional outbursts. He performance is mostly internalized and I think it’s a good one. There are moments where you get the idea that he’s been on the island by himself just a tad too long without having to overact.
Ada Sapara plays The Warrior that eventually turns up on the island; himself stranded also. Sapara provides a bit of menace, humor and finally the point of the film. He speaks mostly in another language if not at all, but he makes his points very well. I enjoyed the back and forth in two different languages between he and Quinn.
Another actor that did a very fine job is a canine actor, the late (I’m assuming) Scampy, who portrays Scamp the dog who is survives the shipwreck along with Crusoe. I’m not kidding, the dog was good. He was more of a character actor, too. He wasn’t just a pretty face.
Very quietly moving film “Crusoe” is one of the best reworkings of a classic story that I’ve ever seen. It never resorts to artistic conceits, letting the characters and situation remain fairly naturalistic. The film is also very symmetrical. The bookend scenes contrast the main character’s view of the world. It’s definitely worth watching, especially if you don’t mind a story that doesn’t require Hollywood style action sequences strung together.