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The Bounty (1984)

Updated on October 17, 2012
Movie Poster
Movie Poster

The introduction to "The Bounty" is via Vangelis' master score. The music is an odd mixture of tropic paradise phrases, South Pacific Sea counterpoint, mixed with a modern blend of themes, simultaneously unnerving yet protective in its smooth, somnambulistic serenity .

The story is not complicated. The Bounty is commissioned to travel to the Hawaiian islands and gather as much bread fruit as the ship is capable of holding then return to England.

After his agreement with the naval body of England, Captain Bligh (Anthony Hopkins) seems overloaded with obstacles -- the main one being Fletcher Christian (Mel Gibson) who en-route to their destination replaces Daniel Day Lewis (John Fryer) for a vague infraction.

Anthony Hopkins as Captian Bligh
Anthony Hopkins as Captian Bligh
Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian
Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian
Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian
Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian
Daniel Day Lewis as John Fryer
Daniel Day Lewis as John Fryer

Shortly after Fletcher Christian decides he's had enough of intolerable hell or the English naval service, and the drawing passion for his new fiancée, he passes word along that those who are with him will mutiny -- no small offense in that time or ours. Taking over the ship only takes a brief time. There is a confrontation between Christian and Bligh. Christian orders that the captain nor anyone else shall be harmed in the insurrection. Whether this provides sufficient solace to Bligh or not is not entirely clear, but his harranging and outburst with Fletcher would suggest he possesses an inner calm, certainty, and sense of correctness that will enable him to weather all storms. Despite the protests of the remaining crew, Christian allows the captain and his die-hard followers to set out in a small boat with a minimum of provisions. The bread fruit are thrown overboard.

Neeson, Hopkins and Gibson
Neeson, Hopkins and Gibson

Bad weather causes Christian to return The Bounty to the Hawaiian island -- this time with no semblance of gaiety or celebration. The entire scene wherein Christian asks the island's chief for his daughter's hand is totally without cheer or gaiety. The chief concedes but at a deep cost of inner-woe.

Once again upon The Bounty, Fletcher steers toward an island that is only vaguely outlined on a single map. This calculation does not instill great confidence in his mutinous crew, so he has to sleep at night with a loaded pistol at the helm. He and his native wife are near exhaustion when the island is finally sighted.

Meanwhile Bligh and his men barely make it alive to a small dock, and Bligh (after some period of time) is able to bring his case to court. He is questioned pointedly but such judges as Laurence Olivier about Bligh's handling of the matter, but in the end, Bligh is exonerated of any charges.

Lawrence Olivier as Admiral Hood
Lawrence Olivier as Admiral Hood

On the uncharted island, we see Fletcher, the native girls and other sailors observe the fiery sinking of The Bounty at sea. With the island being their last refuge, elimination of The Bounty is a matter of necessity -- but not without emotion. Everyone who watches its demise realizes that they will be cut off from the rest of the world for an unknown period of time.

Because of the A-list actors, this film could not be made today. At the time Liam Neeson and Daniel Day Lewis were not headlining stars, but they were up and coming. Hopkins and Gibson had already established reputations and a certain bankroll. While the film may have been created on a budget, the cast certainly did not lack credentials. The highlight of the film is the face-to-face shout-out between Gibson and Hopkins. I have never seen Gibson so blanched nor Hopkins so red faced. With supporting actors like Neeson and Daniel Day Lewis, there really wasn't much room for the script to go askew.

For whatever reason the movie got overlooked when it was released in 1984. I found it to be impressive at my first viewing, and the film has held up over time with many subsequent viewings. This would find a place within my top 20 films.

For an 80's film you just couldn't ask for more.

Opening Credits

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    • nighthag profile image

      K.A.E Grove 5 years ago from Australia

      Sounds like something to watch on a rainy sunday :) I will have to keep my eye out for this one

      thanks!