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Film review: The Odyssey

Cousteau biopic looks sumptuous but has little narrative thrust

The Odyssey

Director: Jérôme Salle; 122 mins

OUT on the ocean, family in tow and looking for new adventures in wildlife and underwater filming is where you will spot the red knitted hat of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, artfully worn here by Lambert Wilson in a lavishly filmed biopic of the former naval officer, marine conservationist and watery filmmaking pioneer.

If the film, which hurriedly covers 30 or so years after Cousteau left the navy postwar, dazzles us aesthetically, it hits the rocks when it comes to finding a riveting plot that extends beyond the episodic. And there is little dramatic tension beyond the diver’s strained relationship with his son, Philippe (the ever excellent Pierre Niney, so brilliant in the titular role of Yves Saint Laurent and, more recently, Frantz) and a troubled first marriage (Audrey Tautou).

One more problem for the filmmakers is that despite Cousteau’s achievements and his name being at least familiar to an Anglophone audience, he is no David Attenborough in the younger public consciousness – so a straightforward, rather mundane biopic needs more to grip a non-Francophile viewer.

Despite these drawbacks, Selle’s film provides sumptuous escapism aboard the Calypso, plus some fine set-pieces.

Also out:

A Violent Life
Dramatised account of internal wranglings and score-settling amid Corsica’s independence movement of the 1990s.

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