The Mercy Review
The sea has always been a source of fascination for man, a vast and untameable place which has driven some men to madness as they’ve tried to race around the globe to prove that they are the master and commander of the sea. The Mercy follows the tragic last voyage of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst (played by Colin Firth) who entered the Sunday Times round-the-world yacht race and took on the challenge in a yacht that he built, despite not having any serious experience at open sea. It’s a story of human endurance, naivety and willpower.
Crowhurst leaves his doting family and takes off on his grand adventure, but predictably starts encountering problems. The situation gets worse when he finds out he’s lagging behind the other competitors. To avoid embarrassment and inspire hope, he decides to tell a little white lie to those back at home, and makes them believe he’s making serious headway in the race. When in actual fact, he has purposefully gone off course believing he can sneak back into the race in last place, and return to the U.K. as the loser (because no one checks the log books of the person in last place). However, Hallworth has woven a wonderful tale back at home about Crowhurst’s amazing accomplishments and everyone regards the sailor as a hero. Soon, the intrepid sailor has to reach the difficult decision about whether to come clean or continue living a lie.
Directed by James Marsh (The Theory of Everything, Man on a Wire) The Mercy is a gorgeous looking film, with vivid colours which seem to burst out of the screen. It’s an attractive film, full of life with its dazzling bold blues, greens and yellows. The scenes shot in Super 8 style are filled with nostalgia and offer a window to an almost forgotten past, it’s certainly something that Marsh seems to be talented at doing. The bird-eye view shots of Crowhurst and his yacht in the middle of the vast ocean aids the sense of isolation and really puts into perspective the challenges that Crowhurst had to face. Marsh knows how to utilise the camera to great effect and puts you into the shoes of Crowhurst with ease; you really do feel like you are in that claustrophobic cabin with him, lost at sea.
Firth delivers a solid performance, but it’s a shame that we don’t focus enough on the isolation of Crowhurst, with his descent into madness seeming to occur rather quickly. There is so much story crammed into the 101 minute run time and yet despite the length, Weisz still feels somewhat underused, reduced to merely playing the doting wife. She does, however, deliver a heart wrenching speech towards the end of the film which is guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye.
The Mercy seems to reflect on the past with rose-tinted glasses, depicting men as reckless and irresponsible, who put their own sense of pride before others - whether this should be celebrated is somewhat debatable. It’s a film which shows the consequences of that little white lie, and the challenges of being thrust into the limelight, but sadly, feels a little bloated and too erratic in places. A large portion of the film is left to the viewers' imagination, who knows what really occurred upon Crowhurst’s boat. While The Mercy has some strong scenes, it feels a little lost at sea - just like the unfortunate Donald Crowhurst - and it would have benefitted from having a little more sense of direction.