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Robinsons' on the beach
home away from home
October 2003 SITE MAP   SEARCH

cast: Liam Cunningham, Brana Bajic, Bonnie Wright, Jesse Spencer, and Charlie Lucas

director: Charles Beeson

175 minutes (PG) 2002
widescreen ratio 16:9
Warner Vision DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by James Starkey
Ever since the wretched Castaway attempted to have the final say on the desert island genre, there seemed a desperate need for a more measured and subtle approach to the familiar tale. Director Charles Beeson has delivered this with his impressive Stranded - an adaptation of Johann David Wyss' Swiss Family Robinson. Electing to base the movie on this classic story was a wise move for numerous reasons, none moreso than it avoided the obvious comparisons to Tom Hanks' Hollywood turkey. Furthermore, having a pre-existing framework to work in has given the actors in Stranded the ability to develop their characters and diversify their original roles.
   Liam Cunningham is predictably excellent as David Robinson, a man whose devotion to his religion causes him to fall foul of the British government. As punishment he is banished as a spy and traitor to a remote Australian outpost at the edge of the empire. With family in tow, they set sail only for disaster to strike en route. In the midst of a freak storm their ship is sunk and the captain killed. Robinson's son Joshua is lifted to safety onboard a lifeboat, but for the other members of his family a life washed ashore upon a seemingly deserted island awaits.
   One thing that is quite clear early on in the movie is that the beautifully filmed landscape is rather let down by the mediocre special effects. This is especially apparent during the storm scene where one can almost picture the director shaking the camera and stagehands throwing buckets of water about the set. This aside, director Beeson performs competently enough. A seemingly enduring pitfall of any movie such as this is that there are spectacular fireworks to begin with, where all the director's efforts are poured into setting the scene prior to their characters arrival on the island. However, once there we are often subjected to a tediously predictable course of events with no dynamic whatsoever. Stranded is different in this respect. Almost immediately, Beeson introduces a conflict between Robinson and his son Fritz (Jesse Spencer of Australian soap opera obscurity). This conflict is clearly for control of the group and the decision-making process and is believably played out by both Cunningham and Spencer. At no point in the initial stages is it clear that this conflict is near to being resolved and it seems simply a matter of time before Fritz overrules his father in a bid for respect and acknowledgement.
   Adding a much-needed kick to proceedings is Roger Allam as Captain Blunt. Ruthless in every way, Blunt turns to piracy after fleeing the wreck of the penal ship where he oversees the development of Robinson's lost son Joshua. His criminal ways take a turn for the worse however, when he raids a British ship and kidnaps the daughter of a prominent naval officer.
   Stranded is clearly aimed at the family audience but is rather overlong to retain the interest of younger viewers. It does have some very slick elements within it though and is kept afloat (no pun intended) by the presence of Cunningham who is a fine actor. If an alternative to the overblown American offering is what is required then this will not disappoint.
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