Movie Review – The River Wild (1994)

Director: Curtis Hanson

Stars: Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon, John C. Reilly, David Strathairn, Joseph Mazzello

Gail (Streep) takes her son, Roarke, (Mazzello) on a river rafting trip where she used to be a guide. Her disinterested husband, Tom (Strathairn), also joins them, although the two of them have been having marital problems. Along the way they encounter Wade (Bacon) and Terry (Reilly), who strike up a strong friendship with Roarke and get close with Gail. However, these two men are not what they seem and soon enough Gail finds herself having to run the ‘Gauntlet’, a passage of hazardous water where three rivers converge, in order to save her family.

I wasn’t really expecting much from The River Wild when I put it on so I was pleasantly surprised. The scenery is breathtaking in parts and, I don’t know, there’s just something about films that happen along a river that appeal to me. The rushing water is dangerous, the crackling fires are warm and intimate, and the huge valleys give the feeling of isolation that helps create tension. The interactions between the characters are good as well. I enjoyed Streep immensely, at first she’s a woman struggling with her marriage and by the end she’s shown to be a badass. I liked how her relationship with her husband developed as they were shown to have real problems and they weren’t fixed easily. The best moment for me is when they realize Wade and Terry’s true nature so they try and escape, only to find that Roarke wants to ride with the men, and this is in due to the arguments that Gail and Tom have had.

Bacon and Reilly made a good pairing as dangerous men who get in over their heads. I liked how the balance was maintained between them threatening the family and Gail being their only hope of completing their getaway. It provided a nice give-and-take between the characters. I also liked how Gail’s family resolved their problems as they used knowledge that they had taught each other, and I thought this was a nice touch to show how they were coming back together as a unit.

I had never heard of this film before I watched it but I really enjoyed it. I’d urge you to check it out. The River Wild has plenty to offer.

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