Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
France/United Kingdom, 2004. Pathé, Pathé Renn Productions, Two Brothers Productions, TF1 Films Production, Canal+, Allied Filmmakers. Scenario by Alain Godard, Jean-Jacques Annaud, original idea by Jean-Jacques Annaud, English dialogue by Julian Fellowes. Cinematography by Jean-Marie Dreujou. Produced by Jean-Jacques Annaud, Jake Eberts. Music by Stephen Warbeck. Production Design by Pierre Queffelean. Costume Design by Pierre-Yves Gayraud. Film Editing by Noelle Boisson.
After Chris Noonan’s wonderful Babe ushered in a decade of bad talking animal movies, it was uplifting to find out that director Jean-Jacques Annaud, who previously made the legendary The Bear, was returning to the world of four-legged cinema and not forcing the poor creatures to move their mouths. This incredibly heartfelt adventure begins in colonial Indochina, where a bounty hunter (Guy Pearce) accidentally breaks up the happy home life of four tigers, two parents and their newborn cubs. The father is killed in the skirmish to save his cubs, but to no avail when they are taken away separately, one given as a pet to the local administrator’s son (Freddie Highmore doing a bad French accent) and the other given to the circus. It’s incredible to watch the very expressive performances the feline protagonists give in this film, plus it is blessed with fine period detail, a wonderful message about the protection of endangered species (less than 5,000 of the 100,000 tigers that roamed the Southeast Asian jungle a hundred years ago remain alive today) and strong acting from the human participants as well. The ending will probably have you bubbling over the gorgeous orange protagonists: instead of feeling like an idiot about this, rent Born Free on the same night and weep over the entire wildcat population of the world.