The Canyon is a big metaphor movie. One of those movies where it feels like the makers came up with the metaphor first, then tried to design a story around it. The problem with this kind of story is that the characters never seem to act on their own. They are there to serve the metaphor. So when they make terrible decisions, the metaphor stays healthy, but audience suspension of disbelief is strained. And over the course of the movie, it becomes a major distraction.
Nick (Eion Bailey) and Lori (Yvonne Strahovski) are the heroes in question, newly married and honeymooning near the Grand Canyon, which Nick is determined to explore. Really, he’s pretty obsessed with exploring it. He won’t shut up about it. And when they learn that they can’t go exploring – that they need permits they should’ve applied for months ago – Nick is still determined, even though Lori seems to be cooling on the idea.
While the bad dialogue and awkward staging begins early, the scene that really drives a wedge between believability and the BIG IDEA is the one the whole story hinges on – at a local bar they meet Henry (Will Patton), a crazy drunk in dirty, torn clothes who tells them that he has tons of experience exploring the Grand Canyon and that he’ll take them down there, no problem. Do Nick and Lori agree to this? You bet they do. But guess what – it turns out not to be a very good idea.
Soon enough, Henry is out of the picture, leaving the couple stranded in the canyon, trying to find a way out while fighting wolves, starvation, and, most of all, each other. The story does occasionally work as a metaphor, comparing the new marriage of this couple to their situation, lost in this canyon – they rushed into all of this without thinking and now all they have is each other. And that doesn’t seem like the best thing in the world.
But that metaphor only goes so far. It butts right up against moments like Lori trying to use her cell phone from the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This doesn’t seem like a question the audience would likely ask – Well, they’re lost in the depths of the Grand Canyon. Why don’t they just call somebody? Taking a moment out for Lori to try to find a signal just makes the movie longer. And when given the choice between climbing a grassy hill or a sheer rock face, Nick chooses the sheer rock face, confident he can climb it because it’s just like that rock wall he climbed once at a gym. Surely, this also fits into the metaphor, but it hurts the narrative on the surface.
Will Patton comes out smelling like a rose, probably because he knew exactly what he was in for and played straight to that point. He has fun with his bit part. Bailey and Strahovski and both imminently likable, but neither ever seem to hit a groove here. Maybe it’s the script, the directing or the acting, but a rhythm is never established. Lines that may have looked good on paper seem to come out of nowhere –
LORI: We came here only for you!
NICK: (picking up dirt) Look, look. Here it is! Look at it! It’s all ours!
Because of this, the world of the movie is never fully built. We’re never really there with this couple. We’re on a movie set and we’re watching people act. No tension can come through.
The makers see this metaphor through to the bitter end, letting us know in no uncertain terms that rushing into marriage – I mean the Grand Canyon – isn’t a good idea. Sometimes the trouble is caused by a drunken night at a bar. And once you’re in it, it’s rocky. And there are wolves. And sometimes, you won’t have cell reception. Or something. What it all comes down to is – if you can’t root for your heroes because they are too stupid to live, you won’t be sad if they die. That should be survival thriller 101.
The film is presented in 2.40:1 widescreen. The picture tends to be pretty grainy, but the grit matches the story, so it doesn’t hurt. The audio is presented in English 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital with Spanish subtitles and tends to be clear as a bell.
Yvonne Strahovski Casting Session – A few minutes of Yvonne reading sides at an audition. Nothing revelatory here. (4:59)
Deleted Scenes – A few cut scenes, one including Will Patton going nutty and speaking tongues. Worth a watch. (7:18)
Discovering The Canyon – A making of featurette. Maybe worth watching if you’re a big fan. (11:50)
Behind The Scenes Montage – Shaky behind the scenes footage, cut together with music underneath. (5:14)
Also from Magnolia Home Entertainment – Trailers for Ong Bak 2: The Beginning, Humpday, World’s Greatest Dad, and Is Anybody There? (9:00)
The Canyon is a thriller that can’t get its big idea out of the way long enough to tell an interesting, relatable story.
Magnolia Home Entertainment presents The Canyon. Directed by: Richard Harrah. Starring: Eion Bailey, Yvonne Strahovski, Will Patton. Running time: 102min. Rating: R. Released on DVD: November 17, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Thriller, Yvonne Strahovski