Monday, October 1, 2012

Film Review: The African Queen

I can’t recall where precisely I read it, but at one point I read something by Dr. Laura in which she described “The African Queen” as the ultimate date movie. Being a Bogart fan, and with an anniversary close, I had the perfect time to give it a try.

Best idea ever. “The African Queen” is truly one of the classics everyone should see. It has everything in it: humor, romance, action, edge-of-your-seat tension. Not to mention a strong, capable heroine that doesn’t have to wear tight leather and do roundhouse kicks to prove herself.

The story begins in a small African village, where Rose Sayer and her brother Samuel are in charge of a small missions church, isolated from the outside world except for occasional mail delivery by Charlie Allnut, captain of The African Queen. But their peaceful world is interrupted when World War I breaks out and the Germans burn the village, forcing the villagers to fight for them. Broken by grief and despair, Samuel catches a fever and dies, leaving Rose and Charlie to find their way down the treacherous river and past the German’s prize battleship, the Louisa.

While the movie isn’t precisely non-stop action, there are enough tense moments to keep the viewer engaged. The interaction between the proper Rose and coarse Charlie are both amusing and sweet, and their romance is surprisingly realistic. It takes them a while to warm up to one another, and Charlie, while rough around the edges, is still a genuinely decent and caring person. Rose, though she is proper, is still a woman who moved to the African jungle and has lived there for some time, and she shows herself quite capable of handling herself in a crisis and has no problem with being dirty. (And unlike the heroines of many modern movies where their hair and clothes, despite everything, somehow remains close to perfect with only a few attractive smudges and flaws here and there, poor Rose starts genuinely looking like she’s been soaked, mud-splattered, and unable to bathe for days.) In fact, it is the character of Rose that fascinates me most. Despite seeming almost prissy, her first act of heroism is to plan to blow up a ship. And to do that, she has no problem boating down the Ulanga River, helping Charlie make repairs to the boat, steering the boat while under fire from Germans, and pulling and shoving it through a muddy bog to make it to a lake. The only time we see her really lose it is when they’re swarmed by African flies, and to be fair, Charlie has a freak out when he gets covered in leeches, so they get equal wimp time.

By the time we got to the end, both Dale and I were sitting forward in our seats, waiting breathlessly to see if they would succeed. This movie really is the perfect date movie.

I give it a 5/5.

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