“It’s an absolute sin to accept the decadence of obsolescence. Why do things get worse and worse? They don’t have to. They could get better and better. We accept that things fall apart.”
Peter Weir’s The Mosquito Coast is a wonderful examination of both one man’s ideological obsessions and the machinations of society. It’s an excellent critique of the West: unnecessary consumption, corporate politics, and the modern decline of social ethos.
But in all of that heady leftist pandering, the story is surprisingly balanced. The main proponent is Allie Fox (Harrison Ford at his best), a tortured soul who wears all of his many ideals on his sleeve. You get the sense that he’s been burned one too many times by the capitalist feeding frenzy, and it shows (“You know what’s wrong with the 20th century? A double-digit inflation and a two dollar loaf of bread.”) Allie’s got very acerbic opinions on it all, and he’s only too eager to divulge his diatribe on his meek family. Take for example:
“We eat when we’re not hungry, drink when we’re not thirsty. We buy what we don’t need and throw away everything that’s useful. Why sell a man what he wants? Sell him what he doesn’t need. Pretend he’s got eight legs and two stomachs and money to burn. It’s wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.”
Fed up with it all, he packs up the fam and heads to Central America to carve out his own utopian civilization. His agrarian vision is to be self-sufficient and to waste nothing.
The family’s new lifestyle is aided by Allie’s aptitude at invention. He can build seemingly anything that he puts his determined mind to.
But conflict begins to brew even here in the middle of the jungle, as the Fox family meets a missionary. Of course, the clergyman represents to Allie all that is wrong with the society he abandoned in America. He represents imperialism and colonialism — the economic and religious exploitation of a peaceful indigenous populous by a dictatorial foreign power.
But then, you have to wonder if these intense ideological feelings of Allie’s are just simply unavoidable. Perhaps he would eventually become jaded by any society on the planet that he ran away to.
Allie begs the question for us: is running from a failing society the answer? The better approach is not to become hermits, but to attempt change from within. If only Allie had applied his brilliant talent to that effort.