Pierre de Vil­liers gives his ver­dict on the Cousteau biography The Odyssey.

Star­ring: Lam­bert Wil­son, Pierre Niney, Au­drey Tautou Di­rec­tor: Jérôme Salle Cer­tifi­cate: TBC Run­ning time: 122 min­utes Re­lease date: 18 Au­gust

France - - Contents - Pierre de Vil­liers

How do you con­dense the event­ful life of some­one as cel­e­brated as Jac­ques-yves Cousteau into a two-hour film? If you are di­rec­tor Jérôme Salle, you fo­cus on the un­der­sea ex­plorer’s stormy re­la­tion­ship with son Philippe to show the pas­sions and de­mons that drove him to greatness. It is an ap­proach that makes The Odyssey an in­trigu­ing, if rather su­per­fi­cial, look at a flawed French icon.

Span­ning about 30 years, the film fol­lows Cousteau (Wil­son) as he goes from div­ing equip­ment pi­o­neer to oceanog­ra­pher and doc­u­men­tary-maker, as­sem­bling a crew and, with wife Si­mone (Tautou) by his side, sail­ing the seven seas on his ship Calypso. The French­man’s celebrity sta­tus causes fric­tion with his fam­ily, in par­tic­u­lar sec­ond son Philippe (Niney), whose own trav­els around the globe have made him a com­mit­ted en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist.

While Cousteau’s con­tri­bu­tion to mak­ing us ap­pre­ci­ate our planet comes across loud and clear in Salle’s film, it is his short­com­ings as a hus­band and a fa­ther that are more in­ter­est­ing. Scenes where he is con­fronted over his in­fi­delity or self­ish­ness by his wife and son fea­ture some fine work by the three lead ac­tors.

This being a movie about deep-sea ex­plo­ration, The Odyssey looks ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful, with un­der­wa­ter footage of divers glid­ing around the big blue show­ing na­ture in all its glory and driv­ing home the movie’s con­ser­va­tion mes­sage. While The Odyssey falls short of being the ultimate char­ac­ter study (Cousteau’s pen­chant for ex­tra-mar­i­tal af­fairs is not cov­ered in enough de­tail), this is still a well-crafted biopic about a na­tional trea­sure that is well worth ex­plor­ing.

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