The Mosquito Coast: You can run, but you can’t hide


The Mosquito Coast premieres on Apple TV+ April 30th 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Apple TV is still finding its feet in the busy world of online streaming services, with its platform thin on content compared to Netflix and Amazon Prime. However, one thing is evident in the Apple TV mission: quality over quantity. Apple TV originals have embraced excellence from the platform’s inception, allowing filmmakers the space to create unique, engaging, and different TV and film journeys. The Mosquito Coast continues this trend as Neil Cross and Paul Theroux combine the classic road trip thriller with family drama and high octane action in a sweeping seven-episode run that is merely a taster of what is to come. However, those expecting a dutiful adaptation of the Paul Theroux novel may be disappointed as the TV series steers a different path.


For those aged 40+, the Paul Theroux book will forever conjure memories of Peter Weir’s 1986 movie starring Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, River Phoenix and Martha Plimpton. However, at the time of its release, many critics found Ford’s version of Allie Fox problematic. Roger Ebert stated, “It is painful to watch him (Ford) not because he is mad, but because he is boring – one of those nuts who will talk all night long without even checking to see if you’re listening”. In hindsight, this critique is somewhat flawed. After all, Allie Fox is wrapped in a bubble of mania, eco-anxiety and paranoia, his actions based on an internal struggle with his identity.


Here Weir’s film highlighted the struggle of Allie’s family in both supporting and challenging his beliefs. Centre stage in this was the teenage Charlie (River Phoenix) who admired his father’s talent and drive while understanding the destructive mania behind the creativity. In Apple TV’s take, Charlie’s role in questioning his father sits with the talented Gabriel Bateman and older sister Dina (Logan Polish). Meanwhile, the paranoia and brilliance of Allie find a new voice in the capable hands of Justin Theroux. Here, Neil Cross and Paul Theroux use the wide-open landscape of episodic TV to carve a story that is one part prequel and one part reimagination of the novel.


Some may find this reimagining problematic, but in my opinion, it’s a stroke of genius. Here, the Fox family’s past is of interest to the FBI, who hunt them down. However, up to now, their children have been kept in the dark as they moved from town to town, evading detection. If this sounds familiar, it should; in many ways, The Mosquito Coast is an amalgamation of two River Phoenix movies, the Peter Weir original and Running on Empty.

Here the family’s security is not only threatened by their potential discovery but also by the anti-capitalist beliefs Allie holds dear. The result is a taut, energetic and imaginative road trip thriller that builds upon the original novel and its characters in a seven-episode run that is addictive, enthralling and creative.

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