Ever since Rushmore, Bill Murray has starred in every single Wes Anderson film to date. Sometimes fleetingly, sometimes, like in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, in the main role. Re-watching the latter, you really do wish that the actor tackled more roles like this one these days.
The film sees a Jacques Cousteau-esque oceanographer, Steve Zissou (Murray), announce at a film festival that he's planning to seek revenge from a "Jaguar Shark" whom, he claims, ate his friend Esteban. His faithful red hat-wearing team and new recruit Ned (Owen Wilson), who may or may not be Zissou's biological son, follow him on this quest which proves to be his biggest challenge yet. The Life Aquatic is Wes Anderson at his very best as an all-star cast brings his razor-sharp script (co-written by Noah Baumbach) to life and he, with the help of stop-motion maestro Henry Selick, creates a unique visual style that's both more down-to-Earth than, say, the more obviously cartoonish The Grand Budapest Hotel, and yet also more magical as obviously animated sea-life pop up every so often to give the film a unique off-beat feel. The real focus of the film, however, isn't its look or its quirky theme but the subtle family relations and drama at its heart, which is slightly reminiscent of The Royal Tenenbaums, except tackled somewhat more colourfully.
Although the film could have benefited from a shorter running time, there's nothing you would want to cut out here. There are so many brilliant small character moments in this movie that taking out any one of them would really be heart-breaking. Murray is on top form as the flawed but likeable Zissou, Anjelica Huston is perfect as his wife, Willem Dafoe clearly has a ball as Zissou's tough yet emotional German colleague Klaus and the likes of Jeff Goldblum and Michael Gambon pop up throughout, adding a welcome extra touch of charm and class to the proceedings. The Life Aquatic not only has an impressive cast of characters and cool visuals but a fab soundtrack and some beautifully unexpected moments. The huge boat set where Zissou leads us to, introducing us to his world, is impressive, one character peppers the film with acoustic Portuguese renditions of classic David Bowie songs, Steve Zissou shows Captain Phillips how it's done when pirates invade his ship and there's the odd emotional twist and turn you don't expect which adds a nice dose of semi-reality to these people's wacky adventures.
Overall, The Life Aquatic is still a classy, funny, unique gem and, although its arty approach and indie feel might alienate those looking for something a bit more mainstream, this is a beautifully crafted, charming little film which should make you fall in love with Anderson's movies all over again.
No complaints here.