In Hollywood, some stories are told and retold many times. Among these is the tale of the ill-fated English ship, the Bounty, and the mutiny that occurred on her. Of the three most famous productions of this story The 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty was perhaps the best. It placed 86in the AFIs top 100 films list. Then there was the 1962 epic with Marlon Brando, not as good as the original but still an excellent film. Now the third version of this tale is on DVD, the 1984 film The Bounty. Like a photocopy of a photocopy, something is lost each time this film is remade. The story is compelling enough, its just we all seen it before. Lt. William Bligh (Anthony Hopkins) (Captain was position on the ship, not his naval rank) is getting older and he wants to make a name for himself so as to receive a promotion. He is commissioned to bring breadfruit trees from Tahiti to Jamaica. He chooses a route that will permit him to circumnavigate the globe. He chooses for his second mate an old friend Fletcher Christian (Mel Gibson), a man of some means in society. The story is told as a retrospective at the naval inquest concerning the actions of Bligh in the loss of the Bounty. Setting out for a cargo of breadfruit for slaves in Jamaica, the ship finds herself in the topical paradise of Tahiti. Even men not confined by long, arduous months at sea would find the almost naked native women a great temptation. Bligh is appalled by the way the men react. Discipline is waning rapidly. Chief among the offenders is the recently promoted first officer, Mr. Christian. Christian has fallen in love with the young daughter of the islands king. Reluctantly, the men return to sea only to find Blighs stern discipline becoming draconian. After the captain announces that they are going to try once more to navigate around the Cape of Good Hope, a move that almost killed the entire crew last time, the men move from disgruntle to mutinous. Appealing to Mr. Christian they take over the ship and set the captain and his loyal crew adrift.
The best thing this film has going for it is the cast. Gibson is very believable as the emotionally torn Christian. In fact, he was so enamored of his leading lady they reportedly started living together during the production. Hopkins is without a doubt one of the best actors ever to grace stage or screen. His command of the role is extraordinary Every movement, phrase and facial expression confers the depths of torment Bligh is undergoing. Ambition for a promotion mixed with a devotion to duty drive this character and few actors today can handle this role in the fashion that Hopkins provides. Even the supporting cast is top notch. Laurence Olivier as Admiral Hood, in charge of the investigation, Daniel Day-Lewis as Mr. Fryer the demoted first officer and Liam Neeson as the troubled sailor Churchill are all the epitome of their characters.
Unfortunately, it takes more than incredible acting and beautiful cinematography to carry a film. Roger Donaldson is not new to directing. He has had his share of hits and near hits over the years. Such films as The Getaway (1994), Cadillac Man (1990), Dantes Peak (1997) and No Way Out (1987) demonstrate this man has talent. Even with a remake such as this film and the Getaway, Donaldson shows he can add a new spin to a favorite film. He frames the scenes well with attention to the full scope of the scene. The real flaw here is the cutting of the final third of the film. The rapid cuts between the adrift Bligh and the crew of the Bounty are a bit too jagged. While this does heighten the disturbing tone the film is aiming for, the presentation of the material this way comes across as too choppy and breaks the flow of both aspects of the story. The writer Robert Bolt who has such classics as Doctor Zhivago, Ryans Daughter and A Man for All Seasons under his belt falls a bit short here. The transition in Bligh is not clearly seen. It appears to have occurred too rapidly. There should have been more of an arc in how the captain changed.
The disc is plain vanilla. No extras are present. The sound was remixed to Dolby 5.1 but the rear channels were for the most part ignored. The sub woofer is active during some key scenes but the audio just doesnt grab you. The 2.35:1 anamorphic video is inconsistent. Some scenes were acceptably sharp while others where too fuzzy and indistinct. If you are fan of this story and want some excellent acting this one is worth it. If not, try one of the older versions on cable.