This eye catching headline does not do justice to the depth (pun intended) of wonder and awe which this film inspires in me. I think this is a tremendously accomplished film in terms of visual impact and power of plot. At the end, one feels compelled to love each of the characters and see their unique place in this extraordinary story.
Having recently lost his closest friend to the jaws of a strange sea predator, oceanic adventurer-cum-filmmaker Steve Zissou (Murray) sets out to find and kill the beast he’s dubbed the “jaguar shark”. Along the way, though, he has to deal with a prim Brit journalist (Blanchett), a man claiming to be his son (Wilson), and impending financial ruin. Empire
I’ve often decried my status as a film critic. This perceived status is most obviously a sham, I am a food critic at best and pompous, pious snob at worst. But this film is close to my heart. A dear friend of mine, Emily, who is “in film”, invited me to a Wes Anderson All Nighter at the Prince Charles Theatre in London. This was during our second year at university. Being an impressionable child then I assented. What unfolded over the evening changed my perception of film and indeed my life. No film more so than The Life Aquatic.
The family’s kit, craft and uniform are quaintly marooned in the 1960s of Cousteau, while Zissou’s hated enemy and rival explorer Alistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum) luxuriates in state-of-the-art gadgetry. Willem Dafoe plays Zissou’s trusty crewmember Klaus; Anjelica Huston is his semi-estranged wife Eleanor, “the brains behind Team Zissou”; and Owen Wilson is aboard as Ned, a huge fan of Zissou and also his illegitimate son. The Guardian
This film is the most idiosyncratic of all the Wes Anderson films. It is without a doubt visually stunning. the character development is perhaps not the strongest I have seen in Wes Anderson filmography and the romance between Wilson and Blanchett was misplaces but then again so were they. This, like many Wes films, tells the story of a collection of outcasts fighting against a system which does not favour them. I suppose this is indicative of why it resonates with me so very much .
His slavish attention to music results in an interesting mix of laidback acoustic cover versions and deliberately dated, analogue-electro flurries. Empire
A true highlight for me is the soundtrack. Seu Jorge’s acoustic versions of dated Bowie hits were just perfection. Even when Indonesian pirates were boarding the Belafonte, he was strumming away with abandon. Jorge’s version of Life on Mars made me cry. Such a beauteous collection of timeless quality pieces is rare, though not so rare I suppose in Wes world (you’ll recall Nico’s These Days in The Royal Tenenbaums). And you’ll be glad to hear that the soundtrack is available on all good streaming services. Being a person of impossibly high taste, I found mine on Deezer.
Of course, the film’s most resonant moment is the climactic meeting between Zissou and the vividly animated jaguar shark, with the disparate crew united in awe for this near-mythical beast. “I wonder if it remembers me,” says the leader, fighting back tears, as the strings of Sigur Ros’s “Starálfur” swell in the background. The character, so hardened and disillusioned by life’s endless shitstorm, finally drops his guard. Esquire
Overall, an undeniable masterpiece. My favourite Wes Anderson film by far. This film moved me deeply and I have no doubt that overall, you’ll not fail to see it’s merit.