Harrison Ford is Quinn, a handyman pilot who makes a living schlepping cargo and passengers from island to island in the South Pacific. Anne Heche is Robin, the vacationing magazine editor who needs a lift in stormy weather. In midflight, lightning knocks out the plane’s radio and distress beacon, and the storm forces Quinn to down the plane on the beach of an unknown, uninhabited island. As they struggle to survive life in the wilderness, Quinn and Robin grow closer. Meanwhile, Robin’s newly betrothed Frank (David Schwimmer) fears she’s dead and starts taking an interest in a busty local named Angelica (Jacqueline Obradors).
If you need a compass to figure out where this storyline’s going, you should see more movies. Still, Six Days, Seven Nights is an agreeable time-killer. First-time scenarist Michael Browning has a good ear for dialogue in the old-school Hollywood mode, and it’s fun to hear Ford and Heche snipe back and forth at one another once things start moving along. Ford’s line delivery is uncomfortably reminiscent of his old Blade Runner monotone, but he’s better known for comic timing and a killer smile, both of which are spot-on.
Heche, meanwhile, has to campaign for the audience sympathy that comes effortlessly to Ford, with mixed results. In her best scenes, she’s a cockeyed, tightly wound spring of a comedian, making the best of her New-Yorker-out-of-water character. Elsewhere, she seems a bit of a prig. (For the record, I find her far more credible in the heterosexual affection department than, say, Demi Moore.) In the scenes that cross-cut back to fiance Frank, Schwimmer registers only as one long, low-pitched whine of a man. He’s Woody Allen on valium.
The locations, on the Hawaiian island of Kaui, are spectacular, and get good play in the Panavision lens of cinematographer Michael Chapman (Raging Bull, The Fugitive). Not only does Chapman know how to shoot a landscape, but even medium shots of our heroes drip with gorgeous, saturated colors. At one point, his camera leaves Heche stranded on one side of the widescreen frame while an unseen Ford vents his frustrations from within a patch of shrubbery on the other. If only every movie out of Hollywood exhibited this high a level of craft, it could help ease the pain of so many slipshod scripts.
Agreeable as it is, the picture trips up when it gets overly ambitious. At one point, our plane-wrecked protagonists peer hopefully through their binoculars at a nearby vessel only to find that pirates (!) are soon to complicate matters. When director Ivan Reitman keeps things simple and focused on characters — when Quinn quietly reflects on his wife of 12 years, or when Heche waffles on her momentous decision of whether to take a certain plane ride — the story moves along smoothly. When it becomes a half-hearted “action” film, it moves in lurches and gasps.
Finally, the protracted ending feels like the kind of thing you tack on in order to please a test audience. This one gets docked a notch for trying to pull the old switcheroo on an audience that’s seen too many switcheroos and deserves a more clever resolution — or at least a more honest one.
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Written by Michael Browning
Edited by Wendy Greene Bricmont and Sheldon Kahn
Cinematography by Michael Chapman
Music by Randy Edleman
Starring Harrison Ford and Anne Heche
Theatrical aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (Panavision)