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Film / The Mosquito Coast

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The Mosquito Coast is a 1986 American drama film directed by Peter Weir, based on the eponymous novel by Paul Theroux.

It stars Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, and River Phoenix in a story of a family that leaves the United States and tries to find a happier and simpler life in the jungles of Nicaragua. However, their jungle paradise quickly turns into a dystopia as their stubborn father's behavior becomes increasingly erratic and aggressive.

The film was a commercial failure at the time, which many believed was due to audiences not being able to accept Ford, whose big claim to fame was playing lovable rogues such as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, in such an unlikable role (Jack Nicholson was reportedly the original choice for the role). Despite this, Ford still cites the film as one of his personal favorites from the work he's done.


Remade in 2021 as an Apple TV+ series, with Justin Theroux (Paul's nephew) in the lead role.

The Mosquito Coast provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Heroism might be taking it a bit far, but Allie Fox is far more mean-spirited in the book, and that's saying something.
  • A God Am I: Both played straight, as Charlie says the locals consider "ice as a miracle", and averted, since Allie states that "this is no miracle, this is thermodynamics". Although as the story goes on, he starts to mention that he feels a little like God.
  • Arc Words: "Ice is civilization".
  • Asshole Victim: Allie Fox himself.
  • Bamboo Technology: So many.
  • Break the Haughty: After the ice maker explodes, destroying the camp and killing the robbers, Allie pretty much loses his mind.
  • Cassandra Truth: Polski warning Charlie that Allie is "a dangerous man and he might get all his family killed". He comes close to doing it.
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  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Allie is torn apart by vultures in the book.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Allie Fox seems be another of his actor Harrison Ford's leads, but when his character becomes more of an obstacle towards his family, his son Charlie is the true protagonist.
  • Downer Ending: Allie dies and his family is on its own. Could arguably be seen as more of a Bittersweet Ending since the story ends implying that the family will return to America and, if nothing else, they are now at least free of Allie's control freak insanity.
  • Eagleland: Ouch. Allie goes for The Boorish flavor.
    Charlie: Have a nice day.
    Allie: Go on welfare. Get free money. Turn to crime. Crime pays in this country. Why do they put up with it? Why do they keep coming? Look around you, Charlie. This place is a toilet. [continues inside the shop] The whole damn country is turning into a dope-taking, door-locking, ulcerated danger zone of rabid scavengers, criminal millionaires, and moral sneaks.
  • Fallen Hero: Allie.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Charlie.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Allie; par for the course for 80s Hollywood.
  • Homemade Inventions
  • Japan Takes Over the World: At the beginning.
    Allie: Look! "Made in Japan". I don't want my hard-earned American dollars converted into yen [...] Goodbye. Or maybe I should have said, "Sayonara!" (tilting his head and leaning forward)
  • Mad Scientist: a non-Science Fiction example. Ford plays an engineer who specializes in refrigeration technology; only problem is, most people already have fridges and air conditioners. So he moves his whole family out to the jungle in the middle of nowhere and builds a giant refrigeration machine just so his talents will be better appreciated. This isn't enough to satisfy his budding megalomania, so he goes on a quest to show a block of ice to some reclusive tribals who have never seen it, presumably so everyone would ooh an ahh over it and him.
  • Mighty Whitey: Deconstructed. Harrison Ford plays a brilliant but arrogant inventor who, disillusioned with the consumerism of American life and believing nuclear war is around the corner, and the fact that no one appreciates his "brilliance" in America, moves his family to a village in the rainforest of Nicaragua and attempts to construct a utopian society there. Sanity Slippage ensues.
  • Now That's Using Your Teeth!: Drainy Roper/Maywit can chew wires somehow without breaking his teeth and make intricate shapes and toys.
  • Opening Monologue: "My father was an inventor...
  • Only Sane Man: Mr. Haddy towards the end.
  • Papa Wolf: Averted, subverted, deconstructed and pretty much anything in between. Despite all his talk of doing it for the greater good of his wife and children it seems pretty clear from early on that Allie Fox cares less about his family and more about his unrealistic and ultimately doomed utopia - so much so that he manipulates his family with lies about America being destroyed by a nuclear war so just so he can go on forcing them to live in his unhealthy and unrealistic do-it-yourself survivalist fantasy paradise.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Allie Fox considers pretty much everyone to be savages, and assumes he knows better than the villagers, and shuts anyone up who argues with him.
  • River of Insanity: The expedition to Jeronimo and its failure lead Allie Fox to insanity, and worse.
  • Sanity Slippage: Allie Fox goes from an arrogant inventor with good intentions to risking his family's life by forcing them to survive in the wild with very little resources, refusing to listen to any sort of reason or advice, and then claiming that America is dead and gone. This self-destructive insanity ultimately leads to Allie getting killed by an evangelical preacher he'd been at odds with shoots Allie for setting his capitalistic home on fire.
  • Tragic Hero: Allie Fox.
  • Villain Protagonist: Allie Fox.
  • World War III: Allie believes it's coming, at first, and then assumes it has already happened.