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Mountains of the Moon Movie Review

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Mountains of the Moon, like many movies about explorers, raises an inevitable question: how would these sagas emerge if they had been told from the point of view of the natives rather than the outsiders who invaded their homelands? British explorers of the past were a stubborn lot, determined to impose inappropriate values and customs on uncharted territories even when it when meant the loss of lives and limbs. To his credit, director Bob Rafelson takes scrupulous care not to romanticize the conflicts and adventures of Richard Burton and John Speke, who sought a passage to the Nile in 1857. Rafelson's honest depiction of the physical hardships endured during the expedition is painfully real, especially during several intense and quite explicit sequences. Patrick Bergin and Iain Glen pull out all the stops as Burton and Speke, and Richard E. Grant delivers another riveting performance as an Iago-like character who tries to drive them apart. Fiona Shaw creates a strong impression as Isabel Burton and Bernard Hill has a splendid cameo as Dr. Livingstone. I'm still waiting for that movie from the natives’ point of view, but in the meanwhile, Mountains of the Moon offers a masterful behind-the-scenes account of the dark and dazzling lives of 19th century explorers. Put Rafelson's epic on a triple bill with Scott of the Antarctic and Burke and Wills and you may wonder how Great Britain ever won a reputation as an empire builder.

1990 m/C Patrick Bergin, Iain Glen, Richard E. Grant, Fiona Shaw, John Savident, James Villiers, Adrian Rawlins, Peter Vaughan, Delroy Lindo, Bernard Hill; D: Bob Rafelson; W: Bob Rafelson, William Harrison; C: Roger Deakins; M: Michael Small.

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