Let’s face it: Netflix has a Queue capacity of 500 titles for a reason. We browse, we see something interesting, we add it, then it’s promptly forgotten, until eventually the wealth of titles sitting there that we know we’re supposed to be interested in is just too overwhelming. If only there were someone willing to watch all those movies for us, both old and new, and let us know which ones were really worth our time. If only there were someone willing to go… Through the Queue.
This week’s choice: Treasure Island (2012)
Anyone who had at least a semi-normal childhood is likely familiar with Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. The novel is often put to good use as a young adult’s tale telling the story of squire Jim Hawkins acquiring a map, then setting sail with pirates in search of buried treasure, which is just about every young boy’s dream at some point or another. This 2012 two part British adaptation takes the old story and casts pieces of it in a fresh light, to again hold the interest of us middle-aged men, who maybe, occasionally, still seek a good excuse to act like a child.
One of the first (and most striking) things you’ll notice is that Eddie Izzard is cast in the pivotal role of buccaneer Long John Silver. You have to imagine that conversation went a little something like this: Casting Director 1: “People loved Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean.” Casting Director 2: “Yeah, he really sold it with all that mascara, but I don’t think we could afford him.” Casting Director 1: “Well, who else would look good dressed like a pirate with lots of eye makeup?” Both: “Eddie Izzard!” And how fortunate we are that they came to that conclusion.
This version of the age old sea tale deeply explores Hawkins’ role with Silver as a sort of surrogate father, where perhaps more than any other film we see Silver as more than just a blood thirsty cutthroat, but as a genuinely sympathetic character. Despite his mistakes and obvious flaws, Silver has a motivation to take his share of the treasure and use that to support his wife (whom he rescued from life at a brothel). The connection made between Long John’s goals and Jim’s desires to help his own mother are more than just palpable to the audience, they are obvious to the characters on screen as well.
The interaction between these two key players is what really carries the film all the way to the very end, making it truly a performance worth seeing. The rest of the cast and ship’s crew equally excel at all their parts, and the tale of treasures, maps and sea-faring pirates is just as visually riveting here as it was when those images first ran through our own imaginations so many years ago.