Film Review: The Mercy (2018)

2018 in Cinema:

The Mercy, 2018

Directed by: James Marsh

Starring: Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz, David Thewlis, Ken Scott

 

In 1968 Donald Crowhurst (Colin First, Kingsman: The Golden Circle), an untrained sea sailor, decides to compete in The Sunday Times’ competition in a solo race around the world. Shortly after setting sail, though, Donald soon realises he’s out of his depth but cannot turn back due to the financial ruin he’ll have to go home to due to his contract with his sponsor. The Mercy goes through Donald’s journey, as well as for all those back home eagerly awaiting any news of his journey.

My first thought after this film had finished was to question why this story has been told. I won’t go into detail, as that’ll enter spoiler territory, but it’s not the nicest of stories and doesn’t majorly paint anyone in a great light, which is what you expect from films based on true events. However, they tell the story in a very nice way. By the end we are given everything we need to form our own opinion of Donald (and a few ladies to my left in the cinema stayed through the credits to argue his pros and cons), as it’s easy to look at his deception of the entire country and his decisions later in the film in a negative light, but we are presented with all avenues needed, which is a credit to the film. And Colin First is a consummate professional, even if I did slightly disagree with his casting. Nothing against his performance, but he’s 20 years older than the character he’s portraying, and the age difference between Colin and Rachel Weisz (10 years in real life) looks noticeable that he’s older.

Throughout the initial stage of the film I was questioning to myself about how The Sunday Times can police the legitimacy of the racers’ locations. It is assumed, by Donald, that he can lie and not win, thus negating the need for his records to be scrutinised. And they’re journey is supposed to be non-stop, so Donald (and assumingly the rest of the racers) doesn’t have his passport on him, which causes complications when he has to stop off in Argentina for some boat repairs (against the competition rules but he doesn’t inform anyone), but all the other races who stop along their own journey just stop off anywhere; so having Donald forgetting his passport would have come across as a wiser decision than not taking it. It’s small details such as that that hamper its writing score, despite the script being fairly decent at getting everything across.

The camera work on this film is pretty incredible at times; on land it uses a steady cam whereas on the boat it’s more handheld. It’s a nice difference as it contrasts between the flatness of the ground and the shaking of the sea. And some of the angles, such as bird’s eye views of the boat rocking alone with nothing surrounding, are beautifully harrowing. The slow progression of Donald’s rumoured insanity is very well handled, too, as it comes across naturally and with reason; anger at his predicament combined with the constant isolation. There are snippets in this film that are decent, but overall it was nothing more than a fine drama. Two top stars with solid performances and a nice downward spiral into madness with a complicated and divisive situation and actions from its lead, but the pacing feels off at times and a large chunk of it in the middle slows down, which parallels what Donald would have been facing (busy beginning with a slow middle part while he’s sailing), but I would have liked more going on, be it on the boat or back at home.

 

Plot: * *                               Acting: * * *                       Writing: * * *                     Presentation: * * * *

Overall Rating: * * *

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