Fearless (1993)

[9.0]

Jeff Bridges plays a plane crash survivor who helps fellow passengers carry on with their lives, ignoring his own needs until it’s nearly too late. Fearless is from my favorite director, Peter Weir (Mosquito Coast, Picnic at Hanging Rock), and it’s emblematic of everything I love about his work — it’s deeply emotional, it uses music as a key element rather than an afterthought, and it achieves some remarkable moments of cinematic grace. Weir consistently delivers this kind of elusive grace, and like no other director.

In Fearless, such a moment comes when Bridges takes Rosie Perez Christmas shopping for her infant son, one of the victims of the crash. She feels uneasy about the idea, but Bridges tells her it’s okay — that they’re both ghosts and no one can see what they do to judge them. So they start buying presents for the dead — she for her son, he for his late father. At one point, Perez sees a fellow shopper holding a baby in her arms. She is drawn to the baby, compelled to kiss it on the forehead. The mother never notices. For that moment, the characters really are ghosts, and it’s not hokey or jarring to suggest as much. It’s poetry. And Weir gets away with it, again and again, film after film.

The last fifteen minutes of Fearless reenacts the fateful crash. With Weir’s incorporation of Henryk Gorecki’s Third Symphony, a devastatingly haunting piece of music originally written to commemorate the Holocaust, the sequence becomes a riveting depiction of extremes — hope and sorrow, fear and nobility. Rosie Perez earned an Oscar nomination for her supporting performance. Isabella Rosselini is also terrific as Bridges’ despondent wife.

Oscar Nomination: Supporting Actress (Rosie Perez)

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