The elements prove far more stimulating than the people in “Wind,” a sail racing saga that could have used a great deal more dramatic rigging. Despite the sometimes striking images of expert crews guiding their beautiful boats through challenging waters, predictable story trajectory and bland human element will keep this physically ambitious picture in a B.O. stall.
In his two previous narrative features, “The Black Stallion” and “Never Cry Wolf,” maverick director Carroll Ballard had subjects that suited his tendency to make Mother Nature the main character. Few filmmakers have had his talent for expressing and physicalizing the raw beauty of the planet and the impact of weather.
This attribute stands him in good stead for the extensive shipboard sequences that vividly display the rigors in mastering air and water currents.
Unfortunately, the individuals manning the crafts are stick figures of no emotional or psychological interest. It’s disappointing for a director who is capable of expressing the metaphysical to concern himself with a text that says nothing more than “To win is all.”
The three-act script is credited to the distinctive writer Rudy Wurlitzer and Aussie scribe Mac Gudgeon, with three more fellows receiving story credit. But several other scenarists reportedly had a hand in this unimaginatively fictional telling of the U.S. losing, for the first time, then winning back the America’s Cup.
Uncompelling protagonists are Matthew Modine, a young sailor with a knack for choking when things get tough, and Jennifer Grey, his spunky g.f., who is seemingly a sailing genius but is kept off the crew due to old-line sexism.
Set in tony Newport, R.I., first 40 minutes build to an apparent blunder by Modine causing millionaire skipper Cliff Robertson to allow sailing’s Holy Grail to pass over to the upstart Australians.
Things become rather more quirky and interesting during a spare central section. Having lost the race and his lady, Modine turns up six months later at Deadman’s Flat, Nev., where Grey and new b.f. and engineering whiz Stellan Skarsgard are designing aircraft.
Modine convinces them to develop a new 12-meter yacht to compete in the next America’s Cup competition, more than three years hence and, with the help of Robertson’s spoiled but rebellious daughter Rebecca Miller, they do so.
The appealingly odd, zig-zag manner in which this section proceeds, and Skarsgard’s offbeat but undeveloped character, are the only imaginable traces of Wurlitzer’s contribution.
Final 40 minutes go Down Under and downhill, with a “Rocky” underdog mood taking hold.
Given the by-the-numbers plotting and low-voltage perfs, one must be content with admiring the versatility and daring of John Toll’s camerawork and the difficulty of maintaining continuity during the arduous water shooting. Physically, the picture is splendid, although a widescreen format might have increase its impact.
Basil Poledouris’ conventional score grows somewhat monotonous, where a more far-out, propulsive, Philip Glass-like soundtrack would have helped a lot.