Directed by Wes Anderson, The Life Aquatic follows the internationally famous oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and his crew – Team Zissou – set sail on an expedition to hunt down the mysterious, elusive, possibly non-existent Jaguar Shark that killed Zissou’s partner during the documentary filming of their latest adventure. A young airline co-pilot who may or may not be Zissou’s son (Owen Wilson), a beautiful journalist (Cate Blanchett) assigned to write a profile of Zissou, and Zissou’s estranged wife and co-producer, Eleanor (Anjelica Huston), join them on their voyage as they face overwhelming complications including pirates, kidnapping, and bankruptcy.
This was the first Wes Anderson film that I watched and, because of that, I was left not knowing what to think of it at the time. Having seen more Anderson films since then, however, I appreciate this film a lot more, especially the quality of the cinematography which you quickly come to love about Anderson’s work.
With a number of stunning underwater scenes, as well, which were created using stop-motion animation under the direction of Henry Selick, the man behind The Nightmare Before Christmas, it is definitely one of Anderson’s more visually striking films.
As usual, the cast is great, especially with the addition of Willem Defoe and Cate Blanchett to the Wes Anderson regulars, and the character developments are some of the best. I was thoroughly impressed by Owen Wilson in this, too, as this was the first time that I was able to start taking him seriously.
Whilst the film is immensely enjoyable to watch, I wouldn’t recommend it as the first Wes Anderson film to watch. You need to appreciate some of his quirks and eccentricities before you can really admire this film, which was trashed by many critics for being “smug, ironic and artificial” at the time of its release.