Ride the Eagle
Landing on UK streaming platforms, Ride the Eagle offers a slightly off-centre examination of grief. Leif, played by Jake Johnson who also serves as co-writer, is provided a picturesque cabin in his mother’s will. However, his inheritance is conditional, with a to-do list that must be ticked off before he can claim it. Boasting a cast that includes the always alluring Susan Sarandon and JK Simmons, the film was shot during the early days of the pandemic. Its heavy reliance on the use of video recordings and phone calls is somewhat indicative of these circumstances, however, it also allows the lost loneliness and detachment that stems from grief to permeate throughout the 88-minute runtime.
The film’s success lies in its refusal to succumb to sentimentality in the clichéd manner that so often blights features tackling this subject matter. Instead, viewers are presented with an honest, understated, and naturalistic portrait of a man coming to terms with loss. As he was estranged from his mother, Johnson and director Trent O’Donnell unearth a deluge of pent-up emotions, with the lead actor delivering a nuanced, delicate and ultimately very believable portrayal. Luis Fernandez-Gil adds some comedy with his humorous depiction of Leif’s friend, Gorka. It’s a shame he isn’t permitted more screen time.
The beautiful Yosemite Valley backdrop provides breathtaking visuals, with cinematography from Judd Overton enhancing proceedings. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to detract from the fact we are told a great much more than we are shown, which results in a sluggish and drawn-out picture, despite its short length. While the offbeat humour is welcome, it often fails to elevate what rapidly becomes a meandering and lacklustre experience. Sarandon advances her thinly written character into someone believable and engaging, although it seems odd that a mother who abandoned her son would make him carry out a series of tasks to receive his inheritance. Simmons ushers in some laughs as Sarandon’s former lover but is criminally underused.
The message is uplifting, and the intentions of Johnson and O’Donnell good, but, due to being drenched in exposition, Ride the Eagle fails to take flight.
Ride the Eagle is released digitally on demand on 4th October 2021.
Watch the trailer for Ride the Eagle here: