Director: Bill Forsyth
Starring: Peter Riegert, Peter Capaldi, Fulton Mackay, Denis Lawson, Burt Lancaster
Release Date: 17th February 1983
Running Time: 1 hour & 51 minutes
Does a comedy have to make you laugh, or more accurately, does a comedy have to make you howl with laughter in order to be considered a success. It would be dishonest to declare that Local Hero had me in stitches from beginning to end, but it is legitimately funny, effortlessly charming and gentle-natured, and is practically impossible to dislike.
The film stars Peter Riegert (The Mask & Animal House) as MacIntyre a hot-shot executive for Knox Oil and Gas run by eccentric astrologer Happer (Burt Lancaster). Happer desires a stretch of coastline situated in a remote area of Scotland in order to build a large Oil refinery. MacIntyre is chosen to represent the company, on the basis that his name sounds Scottish, and is soon travelling away from the high-life in New York to the slower pace of life in a secluded Scottish Village. This is not a simple fish-out-of water tale though; instead it is a rather brilliant study of our inherent desire for the things that we do not have, and our inability to see what we do have.
As he arrives in Scotland MacIntyre is met by local Knox representative Danny (played brilliantly by current Dr. Who Peter Capaldi), and the pair enter into the small Village of Ferness accompanied by an injured Rabbit that they encounter along the way (this creature is the punchline to a joke that I will not spoil here, but is one of the bigger laughs in a film that is more interested in quiet moments). MacIntyre and Danny soon meet Gordon Urquhart (Denis Lawson) who operates the hotel, runs the local bar, and is the accountant for the Village. “We all pitch in, what-ever jobs need doing” states one of the more open villagers later in the film. In a film about the acquisition of land for private ownership it would be easy for Director Bill Forsyth to present the typical small man vs big corporation dispute, but Forsyth rather beautifully turns this on its head as the shrewd locals actively desire the deal that will make them all rich.
In a film that is as rich in memorable moments as Local Hero it would be impossible for me to name them all, nor would I wish to spoil some of the softer moments for those who have not seen it, but i must give a quick mention to my favorite scene. As MacIntyre attempts to negotiate with local man Ben Knox (a wonderful performance by Fulton Mackay) he is made the following offer, “If you give me a pound note for every grain of sand I hold in my hand, you can have the beach for that”. He quickly declines the offer, only to be told that Ben could not “hold more than 10’000 grains of sand in my hand”, a fitting, but crucially understated metaphor for the film. There is no cheesy music or dramatic turns in the scene, just a simple conversation between two individuals.
As I stated earlier Local Hero is not a film that will have you rolling on the floor laughing, but it does not go looking for this kind of reaction. The one thing that I can always count on as the film fades to black is a slightly sombre smile across my face. The final thing to mention is the score by legendary guitarist Mark Knopfler, it is a simply sublime soundtrack that never threatens to overshadow the events on-screen. Local Hero is truly a masterpiece, and one that deserves to be seen by more people.