The Odyssey

**1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Odyssey
"The tension between Philippe and his dad ultimately drives the film in ways that lead Salle to cut corners with other characters and leave it caught in the doldrums when Niney is absent."

Jérôme Salle’s glossy Jacques-Yves Cousteau biopic begins at the end, which is rarely a good place for films to start, since it limits the scope for the viewer’s imagination from the off. The event in question is the death of the scuba-diving pioneer’s son Philippe (Pierre Niney), in a 1979 plane crash that took him to a watery demise.

The tension between Philippe and his dad ultimately drives the film in ways that lead Salle to cut corners with other characters and leave it caught in the doldrums when Niney is absent. Their relationship is also a handy hook for an environmental conflict, pitching the search and exploit attitude of the old guard, as embodied by Jacques, against the conserve and protect mentality of the younger generation, as epitomised by Philippe.

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Cousteau is a name, to those of a certain age, synonymous with adventure. His underwater exploits in the 50s were captured on film and brought into the homes of millions across the world in ways that, perhaps, only David Attenborough continues to attain. Salle’s film paints him as a businessman and fame-seeker, who is much less ambitious on the family front. After getting together the cash to purchase The Calypso, he sets sail with wife Simone (Audrey Tautou) with discovery in mind, while packing off elder son Jean-Michel (Benjamin Lavernhe) and Philippe to boarding school. The problem for Salle is the wealth of material, meaning that he begins to whip through events like a whirlwind, trying to pack in so much that there’s no time to stop and consider character development.

Simone is particularly poorly served by the emphasis on her husband, which leaves Tautou with little to work with except a succession of greying wigs that ultimately leave her looking like Sybil in Fawlty Towers. In fact, the characters all seem to be ageing at different rates, which proves a distraction as the film continues. Lambert Wilson, as Jacques, is right on the money, angular and immaculate in look and action with his signature woolly red cap. But this is a story so focused on facts that it overlooks the flesh and blood swimming beneath.

Reviewed on: 22 Feb 2017
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The Odyssey packshot
Biopic of the underwater pioneer Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

Director: Jérôme Salle

Writer: Jean-Michel Cousteau, Albert Falco, Jérôme Salle, Laurent Turner

Starring: Lambert Wilson, Audrey Tautou, Pierre Niney, Benjamin Lavernhe, Laurent Lucas

Year: 2016

Runtime: 122 minutes

Country: France


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