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Mate Fletcher Christian leads a mutiny against his friend Lt. Bligh on an 18th-century voyage to Tahiti.
Director Roger Donaldson (Thirteen Days) has breathed vibrant new life into the classic story of the mutiny on the Bounty. With a dream cast--Mel Gibson, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir Laurence Olivier, Liam Neeson, and Daniel Day-Lewis--and a script by Robert Bolt (Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia), The Bounty takes a revisionist tack through the well-charted waters of an oft-told tale. Hopkins's Captain Bligh is no raving sadist in the Charles Laughton mode. (Laughton played Bligh in the first Mutiny on the Bounty, 1935.) Instead, Sir Anthony plays Bligh as a hard-nosed imperialist explorer simply trying to get the job done in the time-honored manner: on the backs of the poor gobs under his command. Still, when Bligh's suppressed powder keg of rage finally blows, Hopkins is formidable indeed. Mel Gibson gives one of the most soulful performances of his career as mutiny leader Fletcher Christian. He's also at the height of his blue-eyed, buff good looks, and his romance with Tahitian maiden Mauatua (lovely Tevaite Vernette) is decidedly erotic. Liam Neeson is a veritable force of nature as the scrappy seaman Charles Churchill, and Daniel Day-Lewis is sublimely hateful as Master John Fryer, a pompous toady. With special effects to rival those of The Perfect Storm, the alluring eye candy of a tall-masted schooner under full sail, lush tropical greenery, and bevies of bodacious South Sea Islands babes, plus a gripping story line, The Bounty deserves a rescue from undeserved obscurity. --Laura Mirsky
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The Bounty was to sail for Tahiti to pick up breadfruit plants and carry them to Jamaica. Captain Bligh chose to sail around the horn of Africa supposedly to save time. I got the impression he had a personal goal to accomplish what others thought impossible because of the unpredictable weather. It was a bad decision.
The tension grows between the crew and the captain mostly provoked by Churchill. Cruel punishment is meted out to the crew is pretty hard to stomach. Reaching Tahiti only adds to the tension as many including Christian who fell in love with a native gail and wanted to stay there. The much reduced crew finally set sail to carry it's cargo to Jamaica the ship is caught in a storm and is lost. Bligh manages to save a few of the crew.
Great movie and character well played. A true classic.
First is the historical accuracy...the filmmakers strove to achieve that. Captain Bligh is not the horrendous villain of Charles Laughton or Trevor Howard...Anthony Hopkins plays him as a more commanding figure, and downright heroic when he and his loyalists are cast adrift from the Bounty after the mutiny, navigating by memory from the South Seas to Koupang in Timor, purely by memory, with very little food, and virtually nowhere to stop to load up more.
Mel Gibson and Liam Neeson are excellent in their roles: Gibson first as the friend of Bligh who is dissipated by the easy life in the South Seas, and Neeson (and others) as the crewmen who foment mutiny and make Gibson an unwilling supporter of it. Gibson is truly "in hell" when he has to lead a mutiny against his old friend.
Edward Fox and Laurence Olivier chew the scenery effectively as the Royal Navy prosecutor and Lord Hood, in the film's bookending and transitional framework of Bligh's after-action court-martial. Fox is efficient, and Olivier is...well, Olivier.
Some critics have suggested there are overtones of a homosexual relationship between Bligh and Christian -- I'm not good at reading people, but I didn't see it. I did see Bligh being discomfited that he was devoting himself to duty and propriety while his pal and right-hand man was lying in a grass shack on the beach, covered in tattoos, bopping a local girl. If anything, it reminded me of how I am at parties -- stuck in the corner, not knowing what to do or what to say, unable to make small talk, while everyone else is having a good time.
The production values are also extremely high...a replica HMS Bounty crewed by appropriately salty-looking Britons sails the ocean to a South Seas island, meets up with local Polynesians, and gets into all sorts of adventures. Everything has a great period feel.
Vangelis also created a superb sound track to this picture, which summons up the tension between Bligh and Christian, the image and feel of a tall ship racing across the ocean, the fear and struggle of Bligh's castaways trying to make it home or Christian's shipmates, girlfriends (some pregnant), and family trying to find a new home amid the wastes of the South Pacific.
All I can say is that this is just one of my favorite movies.