The second adaptation of Paul Theroux’s novel tries to speed along the part of Allie Fox’s story where he and his family leave the U.S., but it also inserts a more mysterious reason why Allie wants to leave. As the first episode builds, series creators Neil Cross (Luther) and Tom Bissell keep us in the dark about Allie’s weirdness. There has to be a reason why Allie, who is damn near a genius, is taking odd jobs for cash at a farm and more or less staying off the grid. Cross and Bissell and their staff did a nice job of keeping the audience guessing as the tension ratcheted up.
The Mosquito Coast is the kind of show in which the central conflict could immediately be neutralized if its characters displayed even the slightest bit of common sense. But because they don’t, we get to see some legitimately thrilling episodes of a television series that is better than it had any reason to be.
Theroux plays Allie Fox with a combination of the simmering madness of Walter White and the gently suppressed rage of his portrayal of Kevin Garvey in The Leftovers. There’s no doubt that Theroux is one of the best dramatic actors on TV today, and he makes Allie Fox much more than a whackadoo that hates the government. He’s fiercely protective of his family, distrustful of authority, and willing to do whatever it takes to keep their freedom intact.
Logan Polish does a fine job showing Dina’s disgust at her father’s behavior, the fact that they’re dirt poor, and the fact that they have to move at a moment’s notice. It’s not the life she wants to live. But when he tells her at the train station that the kind of problem they have isn’t one that you can sit and figure out, we know that Dina’s loyalties are split. How their relationship evolves going forward will be the most interesting part of the series.
To the extent that it is the story of a man who can’t be told anything, a “First World” person bumbling into a “Third World” he thinks he understands, heedlessly endangering his family in the process, it shares some themes with the novel. But the meaning is obscured by action as the family jumps from frying pan to frying pan in an attempt to forestall the fire. “The Mosquito Coast” works best when you just follow along with the running and don’t think too hard about the rest, but the running itself becomes tedious after a while. Not everything makes perfect sense or seems remotely plausible.
As a pure craft, “The Mosquito Coast” is well made — handsomely photographed, smartly edited. There are a few metaphorical wildlife shots — a lizard here, a spider there, what I took to be a litter of baby rats and recurring butterflies and buzzards — but little stylishness for style’s sake. The action scenes are well-staged. Hair and makeup, production design, location scouting, all are tip-top. There is nothing to criticize in the acting and in some performances much to admire. As the Fox kids, Polish and Bateman are exceptionally good; the scenes where they get to be just a brother and a sister, briefly, are best of all, and Dina’s desire for normalcy is perhaps the series’ most compelling emotional thread. George is more interesting the more at odds Margot is with Allie; there is more to know about her — a few crumbs are dropped. Theroux is fine; it’s the part itself that’s ill-defined, a character who can’t quite come together because the series wants him to be both hero and antihero.
Final Score – [7/10]
Reviewed by – Ritika Kispotta
Follow her @KispottaRitika on Twitter (https://twitter.com/KispottaRitika)
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