Release: 25th June 2018
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
Internationally famous oceanographer Steve Zissou (BILL MURRAY) and his crew—Team Zissou—set sail on an expedition to hunt down the mysterious, elusive, possibly non-existent Jaguar Shark that killed Zissou’s partner during the documentary filming of their latest adventure. They are joined on their voyage by a young airline co-pilot (OWEN WILSON); a pregnant journalist (CATE BLANCHETT); and Zissou’s estranged wife, Eleanor (ANJELICA HUSTON).
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is without a doubt the most underrated of Wes Anderson’s repertoire. Eclipsed by the gargantuan shadow of The Royal Tenenbaums, Life Aquatic is no less affecting or comically perfect than its older brother. There is no such thing as a bad Wes Anderson film, but Life Aquatic came unjustly and dangerously close to be labelled one.
Praise be for Criterion then, who have seen fit to preserve Steve and the crew of the Belafonte in this glorious ode to a hidden classic. If you know Anderson’s work then you’ll notice all of the standard elements of parental absence, inept matchstick men and a beautiful pastel colour pallet. From its opening delve in to the world of Jacques Cousteau’s Bill Murray shaped contemporary, to a wonderful set piece that turns an industrial boat in to a living doll house; here is a film brimming with confidence and sass.
The sense of melancholy that Anderson so readily embraces with his subject material, seems apparent here and it may be this that holds the film back most. There are, however, so many wonderful moments bookending Murray’s seemingly permanent grimace, that it would be ridiculous to call Life Aquatic anything other than a comedy. Willem Dafoe, particularly, gets to shine as bullish first mate Klaus, while Angelica Houston provides a masterclass in minimalism. There are all the Andersonverse regulars operating at full force, including a twitching and smug Jeff Goldblum, a po-faced Owen Wilson and, of course, the groovy soundtrack of David Bowie; masterfully ingrained like a Greek chorus by Seu Jorge in his native tongue of Portuguese.
Life Aquatic is problematic in places. Anderson’s script does not always feel like it knows where it wants to go, and the placement of Cate Blanchett’s Jane has and always will be a tad lecherous (especially in today’s woken state). But these are a small price to pay for a wistfully glum little stunner of a movie. Maybe it’s time for Steve Zissou to surface once again and finally obtain the adoration it so rightfully deserves.
Film Grade: A-
The only thing that is missing is an accompanying red beanie and Zissou approved trainers. This is a uber comprehensive set of features here; too many to list, in fact. 👏 Criterion.
Special Features Grade: A+
Great film, even great special features, a must for any Anderson fan.