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Film / Water (1985)

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England wants the island dumped.
France wants it bombed.
America wants it wholesale.
And Michael Caine wants it...
On the rocks.

Water is a 1985 Comedy/Satire from HandMade Films, directed by Dick Clement from a script by Clement, Ian La Frenais and Bill Persky.

Baxter Thwaites (Michael Caine) is governor of Cascara, a long-forgotten British colony in the Caribbean. His peaceful life is disturbed only by his shrill wife Dolores (Brenda Vaccaro) and the Cascaran Liberation Front — a rebel group that no one takes seriously because it only consists of two people, one of whom (Delgado Fitzhugh, played by Billy Connolly) communicates solely through (bad) singing.

But when an abandoned oil rig starts delivering pure mineral water, Cascara suddenly has a valuable resource that Downing Street, the White House, French mercenaries, Cuban guerrillas, and an American oil company will do anything to obtain.

Not to be confused with the less light-hearted Deepa Mehta film of the same name. Nor the artistic Half-Life 2 mod of the same name.

This film provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: The mercenary commander, who politely leaves Baxter his card and asks him to hire his mercenaries if he ever needs them...immediately after nearly strangling Baxter to death.
  • Ain't No Rule: The CLF disrupts Spenco's recruitment efforts with a protest song.
    Waring: Can't you shut that bastard up?
    Policeman: Under British law singing badly is not a crime.
    Waring: Screw that! (picks up megaphone) A hundred dollars cash for the first man who nails them!
    (Cascarans Zerg Rush the CLF, and the policeman tries to shoot Delgado)
  • Apathetic Citizens: Cascara is too hot for the natives to get hot and bothered, so it's a Running Gag.
    • When the Cascaran Liberation Front attempt a Rousing Speech, everyone just goes on with their business except the Governor, and he's more interested in dressing appropriately for the 'insurrection'.
    • The Cubans initially refuse to help the Cascaran Liberation Front for this reason.
      "Fidel says Cuba will shed blood for revolution of downtrodden people anywhere. But your people are too downtrodden even for Cuba!"
    • Baxter is griping that the population don't care about being forcibly evacuated.
      Rev. Fitzhugh: I suppose they all want to go where the grass is greener.
      Baxter: (smoking a joint) They'll find it a lot more expensive.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: Dolores announces over a megaphone that she wants a divorce. Everyone cheers. She shouts at them to shut up and announces she's going to marry Sir Malcolm. The Cascarans cheer even louder.
    Sir Malcolm: Shut that woman up, Major! Where's that bloody sniper?!
    Baxter: (trying not to laugh) Congratulations. I'm sure you'll be very happy together.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Interruption: The actor filming the Spenco ad. "We're not here on any picnic. We're on this godforsaken wind-swept island because we need to SHIT!"—(starts shouting at cue card guy over a mistake). Later it's mentioned that a selling point of Cascara's mineral water is that it has laxative properties, because a combination of urban stress and junk food is "clogging up the bowels of America".
  • Badass Bandolier: Baxter wears crossed bandoliers after he joins the CLF.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Cascara's mineral water, a genuinely good product that would have been popular, is lost to the world forever, but oil discovered on the island means the citizens won't starve.
  • The Cameo: Features a performance by a (fictional) charity band "The Singing Rebels" featuring two former Beatles, George Harrison and Ringo Starr together with Jon Lord, Eric Clapton, and Billy Connolly on vocals.
    • Doubles a bit as Creator Cameo since George Harrison's production company (Handmade Films) produced the movie.
    TV director: That's err...Ringo Whosit...and George Whatsit! It's Whosit and Whatsit, back together again!
  • Cardboard Prison: Cascara's jail cell. While the Cubans are planting plastic explosive on the wall for a dramatic jailbreak, Baxter just walks in and takes the keys off the sleeping guard. Who doesn't even wake up when the bomb goes off.
  • Chekhov's Volcano: Averted. There's constant talk of the island's volcano erupting, but it never does.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive:
    • Rob Waring and his boss, Spender.
    • The French water company executive makes no bones about the reason why she's employing mercenaries to destroy the Spenco well: money.
  • Covert Pervert:
  • Deadpan Snarker: Baxter is the champion at this. The DJ and Pepito have their moments, too.
    Baxter: If you want magic, I'll take you home and saw you in half.
  • Eagleland: Type 2 with Spender and Major Hollister, although the American paratroopers under Hollister's command are well-behaved.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The standoff over the rig is defused without any civilian casualties, and Cascara gains its independence peacefully.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Spender, the Spenco CEO whose ham is as large as Texas itself.
    "I'm an oil man! Spenco strides the world like a colossus, with a barrel of crude under each arm! Not like some limp-wristed faggot with a glass of mineral water and a twist."
  • Exact Words: Delgado swore he wouldn't speak until Cascara is free. So he sings. Badly.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama
    DJ: Newsflash! In a daring raid, Delgado Fitzhugh and Garfield Cooper seized Radio Cascara and urged the people to take to the streets! (looks out the window with binoculars) They didn't.
    • Baxter threatens to blow up the well by lighting the dynamite strapped to Garfield, but can't get his cigarette lighter to work. Then Garfield faints on him.
    • SAS commander Major Charlesworth leaps out of a jeep and down the slope, but his momentum carries him past the American Major Hollister before he can stop.
  • Faint in Shock: Baxter Thwaites threatens to blow up the Spenco well using dynamite strapped to a member of the Cascaran Liberation Front. He holds a cigarette lighter to the fuse until everyone else puts down their weapons, whereupon the bomb guy promptly faints.
  • Fictional Country: Cascara as the obligatory stereotypical British Caribbean overseas territory.
  • Freudian Excuse: Reverend Fitzhugh thinks Delgado is a rebel out of revenge for not marrying his mother. Also environmental activist Pamela Weintraub, daughter of the Spenco CEO.
    Pamela: Baxter, I have been trying to get back at my father, but I think I've a good reason for it. Dad's a prick.
  • Foreign Queasine: When Sir Malcolm meets Delgado and Garfield in the prison, they're eating a soup which can also be made into rope, if need be.
  • Fun with Acronyms: T.I.T. — the three vital elements of insurgency (Terror, Infiltration, Television).
  • Granola Girl: Pamela Weintraub.
  • Going Native: Governor Baxter Thwaites, to the extent of eventually joining up with the Cascaran Liberation Front to fight for the island's independence.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Baxter shows Pamela the sights, all of which have names like Cape Danger, Mount Pestilence and Shipwreck Point.
  • I Lied: After Pamela states her opposition to Spenco, Baxter threatens to have her deported as an undesirable alien. Later when they realise their Unresolved Sexual Tension...
    Pamela: You said I was an undesirable alien.
    Baxter: I lied. (they start smooching)
  • Improvised Zipline: The CLF attack the radio station by sliding down the telephone wire (even though they could have simply walked up to the door). Delgado misjudges his distance and goes crashing through the roof.
  • In the Style of: Dick Clement acknowledged that, while it wasn't his intention, the film comes across like an 80s version of an Ealing Studios comedy (with Passport to Pimlico as an obvious influence).
  • Invisible President: Used for satire. We only see the back of the President's head (implied to be Ronald Reagan) as his staff urge him to invade Cascara to preempt a communist revolution.
    "The decision appears to be unanimous, Mr President. [Dramatic Pause] Well, shall we wake him?"
  • Ironic Echo Cut:
    TV Presenter: Once again American soldiers have set foot on foreign soil, in a land which — until last week — they had never heard of. Many of them are searching their hearts and asking: Why are we here?
    (Cut to a paratrooper of the 82nd Airborne Division asking his commanding officer: "Why are we here, Major?")
  • Iron Lady: Sir Malcolm Leveridge is having to explain to the Right Honourable Margaret Thatcher how he let an American company get the sole rights to Cascara's mineral water. The PM is opening her mail at the time.
    Sir Malcolm: And we do regret the somewhat disappointing revenue.
    Thatcher: How much?
    Sir Malcolm: cent per every hundred barrels— (flung letter opener drills into the wall next to his head)
  • Is This Thing Still On?: Baxter announces over Radio Cascara that Spenco has jobs for them all, so the evacuation is cancelled. Dolores charges up there, furious that they're not getting off the island, and the two have a domestic argument that's broadcast to the entire populace (Dolores slaps away the DJ's hand every time he reaches past her to switch off the microphone). When Dolores melodramatically threatens to to kill herself, everyone celebrates.
  • Just One Man
    Thatcher: I have learnt that there is a subversive element on the island, one Delgado Fitzhugh.
    Sir Malcolm: Oh, just one person...
    Thatcher: There was only one Gandhi once. One anorexic little looney in a loincloth and we lost a whole subcontinent!
  • Land in the Saddle: The CLF discover that trying this with bicycles is a bad idea.
  • Layman's Terms:
    Executive: The water has one unique quality that separates it from other proprietary brands. According to our lab report, it has an aperient element that makes it cathartic.
    Spender: What is that in English?
    Rob Waring: It makes you shit like clockwork, sir.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Baxter walks into the prison and finds Delgado and Garfield hiding under the bunk, waiting for the bomb to go off.
    "Are you two digging a tunnel or committing an unnatural act?"
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: Baxter and Dolores go to meet the famous movie star filming a Spenco advertisement at the well. The actor, assuming she's the hooker he demanded, slings Dolores over his shoulder and proceeds to carry her off to his trailer.
  • Meaningful Name: Cascara is a natural laxative...
  • My Card: After nearly throttling Baxter to death, the mercenary commander leaves him his card. "If you are in need of an army, just call."
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: When the British SAS commander meets up with his American opposite number.
    "Major 'Mad Dog' Hollister, isn't it? Sandy 'Take No Prisoners' Charlesworth, SAS."
  • National Anthem: The Cascarans imitate various swimming styles when singing this, as the islanders were all descended from shipwrecked sailors.
  • No Blood for Phlebotinum: Played for Laughs when Cascara strikes mineral water, causing the intervention of various outside governments trying to seize control of it. As an American executive points out: you don't have to refine water, just slap a fancy label on a bottle and you can sell it for a higher price than oil.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Delgado breaks his oath not to speak because he can't think of anything that rhymes with bomb.
  • One-Word Title: Water!
  • Pet the Dog: Delgado shows that he's not such a bad person after all when he saves Baxter from the bomb explosion and talks the Cubans out of shooting him afterwards.
  • The Power of Rock: Delgado appeals to the United Nations Assembly to grant Cascara's independence by singing to them. Unfortunately he's a Dreadful Musician so they're not impressed, until a cameo appearance by some legendary rock stars saves the day.
  • Private Military Contractors: The French Secret Service hire mercenaries to blow up the well.
    French agent: This is a dangerous mission, and some of you will die. But remember, in a world gone mad, you will die for a principle that you all hold close to your heart. Money!
    Mercenaries: Viva franc! Viva deutschmark! Viva dollar! Viva numbered bank account in Switzerland!
  • Pun: Spenco is recruiting the locals for their well when Delgado turns up and starts singing his protest.
    Waring: Who is that man?
    Reverend Fitzhugh: That's my son, my son.
    Waring: You mean you're his father, Father?
  • Really Gets Around: Pastor Fitzhugh apparently has 14 illegitimate children on Cascara.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Baxter delivers one to Delgado, and is so angry he ignores Delgado shouting at him to take cover. In the end Delgado tackles Baxter to the ground just as the bomb goes off.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Baxter was assigned to Cascara after his wife danced topless at a reception for the Duke of Edinburgh.
  • Shur Fine Guns: Sir Malcolm's visit is commemorated with a salute from the island's ancient cannon. It blows up instead.
  • Someone's Touching My Butt: When Baxter and Pamela are tied to a tree by the Cubans, Baxter has to inform her that it's not his lighter she's grabbed to burn the ropes.
  • So Much for Stealth: Sir Malcolm is trying to secretly organize a revolution with Delgado, who keeps singing his response at the top of his voice.
    Delgado: YOU OFFER ME FIFTY-FIFTY / YOU EXPECT ME TO SAY YES? / WELL I'M A MAN OF INTEGRITY (Sir Malcolm blocks the guitar with his bowler) Sixty-forty, no less.
  • Speak of the Devil:
    American TV presenter: The man they call the Singing Rebel is still at liberty. And in this remote and inhospitable terrain, he could be in one of a thousand places. (The CLF walk out of the bushes behind him, holding their AKs) Why do you guys have your hands in the air...uhh...
  • The Stoner: The only crop that hasn't failed on Cascara is marijuana. Even the Governor has his own garden of "heavy duty herbs".
  • Take That!: At colonialism, Cold War politics, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and both leaders' justifications for invading the Falklands and Grenada respectively.
  • Tempting Fate:
    Sir Malcolm (giving a TV interview): This island has always been a model of civility and tranquility.
    (RPG-7 rocket blows up a building behind him)
  • Title Theme Tune: Sung by Eddy Grant.
    Water! Water! Look what you brought into my life
    Water! Water! You're a misery to me
  • Translation by Volume:
    Rob Waring: (with exaggerated hand movements) DO-YOU-SPEAK-EN-GL-ISH?
    Garfield: I do, but my comrade will not speak until he can say Cascara is free.
    Rob: Is that a political posture or a speech impediment?
  • Tropical Island Adventure: The setting of the movie, being a former British colony in the Caribbean.
  • Walk-In Chime-In: Baxter catches a mercenary setting explosives on the well.
    Baxter: Who sent you? Why are you here?
    (The mercenary commander charges up behind Baxter and starts to throttle him)
  • War for Fun and Profit: Margaret Thatcher orders Sir Malcolm to back the CLF in a revolution. After taking over the island, the new government will nationalize the well, throw out the Americans, then sell the bottling rights to the UK.
  • We Need a Distraction
    • So he can get the jump on the Cubans, Baxter tells Pamela to look like he'd escaped from his bonds and ravished her. After rearranging her clothes to effect this illusion, the two of them start ravishing each other for real.
    • The mercenaries launch their attack while everyone is busy watching Delgado's broadcast to the United Nations.