The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – Film Review

It’s Wes Anderson. It’s Bill Murray. It’s Jeff Goldblum. It’s a giant shark that lights up and glows in the dark. It’s another good (not great) film from Wes Anderson about family and redemption.

Steve Zissou has his own series of films where he goes exploring the oceans to document new and exciting fish. None of his documentaries have been very successful for a while and his latest about an unseen ‘Jaguar shark’ that ate his partner hasn’t gone down too well either. So Steve sets out with his crew to exact his revenge on this shark and try to mend his broken family. It’s a story about Steve finding some sort of closure and redemption, both with his wife and newfound son and with his work. It’s a touching personal journey, even if Steve isn’t the greatest guy around.

And bringing that not so great Steve to life is Bill Murray. We all know him. We all love him. He’s  great, what more can I say? He’s far from quipping Venkman in ‘Ghostbusters‘ and really sells that Wes Anderson deadpan, emotionless acting style. But he’s not the only star in this film, as Anderson has once again pulled an amazing ensemble out of the acting bag. Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon and a particularly good Seu Jorge who sings a load of David Bowie songs in Portuguese. Everyone in the cast is really great. They all have their own little quirks and Owen Wilson stands out as being really good and having one of the best character stories.

All of Anderson’s usual trademarks are in there. There’s a great rock and pop filled soundtrack along with a whimsical little score that keeps everything light and fun. There’s his classic cinematography that frames everything centrally, making it all seem like some sort of storybook even more so than the near emotionless deliveries of his lines. And then there’s the production design which, as with all Wes Anderson films, is really really great. The ship team Zissou use is designed really well with different rooms for every purpose. The model work with the ship and the designs of all the different coloured fish all look fantastic. The Jaguar shark especially looks really great.

It might not be his best work, and it might not be a great film, but it’s a fun one. There’s a few pacing issues and some padding out of the story here and there, but it’s still a fun ride and the cast make it work. It’s funny with some nice emotional storylines thrown in too. Overall, it’s fairly good.

JACK’S SCORE: 3/5

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