Crash And Burn

"Fearless"

directed by Peter Weir

produced by Paula Weinstein and

Mark Rosenberg

Warner Brothers

There's no God but there's you," gasps a bleary-eyed plane crash survivor to Max (Jeff Bridges), and sums up the dominant theme of Peter Weir's latest all-star release. Full of glitz, melodrama and unadulterated emotional manipulation, "Fearless" chronicles the psychological aftermath of a plane crash in the life of Max, a good-looking, successful and secretly tortured architect, and how the rest of the world hinges upon his mental wellbeing.

The film begins with Max emerging heroic and unharmed from a gory, chaotic crash site, suddenly convinced that he is beyond mortal concerns: fearless. He even informs God of this development: "You want to kill me but you can't." Feeling thus elevated, Max disengages from his former life, abusing his beautiful wife and son and flaunting various conventions of society. While Max gets his thrills from risking his life periodically and hanging out with other brush-with-death-survivor buddies, his devoted and one-dimensional wife (Isabella Rosellini) is apparently confined to the house, as well as to a limited repertoire of worries and complaints about his new persona.

Max meets Carla (Rosie Perez), a guilt-ridden and help-seeking woman whose baby was killed in the crash. Max enjoys rescuing Carla and even falls in love with her because of it, but her cold feet thankfully spare us from any romantic complications. Certain cliches must endure, however, and by the end of the movie Carla realizes that even Max needs help. The tables turn and she sends him back to his wife and family, whereupon Max almost dies and realizes that he's not fearless anymore.

Despite a decidedly cheesy plot-line, the production is no less than stunning. An ever-shifting pace, special effects, and raw intensity keep the film humming. "Fearless" highlights Max's fundamental isolation through silent, close-up slow-motion shots of him ponderously feeling his naked body and relishing strawberries, and loud, fast-paced cuts to the crash. The style and mood of each scene contrasts with the next, and the overall effect of this roller-coaster ride is admittedly intense. By the long, drawn-out ending, however, the audience is exhausted and out of sympathy for Max's long overdue return to normalcy.

Jeff Bridges cuts a powerful figure as the melancholy Good Samaritan, alternately rescuing passengers in flashbacks to the crash, solving people's problems and proving his privileged status by teetering on roofs of tall buildings in a dark trenchcoat. Bridges is especially convincing in his holier-than-thou attitude, although his more rapturous love scenes with Carla and his wife ring insincere.

Condemmed to the annoying stereotype of the neglected and nagging wife, Isabella Rosallini still manages to salvage the role to some extent with her beauty and permanently poignant demeanor. Rosie Perez draws out her role with hyper rawness, and provides a counterbalance to Bridge's brooding.

Weir's earlier change-your-life movies includethe more successful "Green Card" and "Dead PoetsSociety." In "Fearless," though, the barage ofcinematic gimickry and Hollywood manufacturedemotion can't quite hide an insubstantial plot."Fearless" manages to tug at the heartstrings--for a while