Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins), a billionaire, Robert "Bob" Green (Alec Baldwin), a photographer, and Stephen (Harold Perrineau), Bob's assistant, arrive in a remote Alaskan village with Charles' wife, Mickey (Elle Macpherson), a model. Styles (L.Q. Jones), the proprietor of the lodge, warns everyone about not leaving uncovered food that will attract bears. Charles is surprised with a birthday party where Mickey gives him an engraved pocket watch and Bob gives a hunting knife.
During a photo shoot, Charles observes Bob and Mickey kissing platonically. The three men fly to a location to find a local Alaskan man (Gordon Tootoosis), for photographs. A note on his door indicates he is miles away bear hunting. They fly north where the man is supposed to be hunting. During the flight, Charles asks Bob how he is planning to kill him. Before Bob can answer, the plane strikes a flock of birds and nose-dives into a lake, killing the pilot. Charles, Bob, and Stephen barely reach shore.
The three men attempt to hike to a more likely search area, only to find a vicious male Kodiak bear stalking them. While crossing a makeshift bridge, Charles falls into the rapids. Bob saves him, leaving Charles doubting his earlier suspicions about Bob's intentions. The group becomes lost. That night, the bear attacks, killing Stephen and chasing the other two away.
The two men see a rescue helicopter in the distance. They attempt to flag it down, but the pilot does not see them, leaving them reduced to finding their own way out.
The bear finds Charles and Bob again. Charles decides that they must bait the bear and kill it in order to survive. The bear begins attacking Bob but Charles distracts the bear, luring it away. Charles wedges his spear between rocks allowing the bear to use its own weight to fatally wound itself after rearing up.
Following the river south, the men find an empty cabin. Charles notices a deadfall, while Bob rushes into the cabin. They find supplies, including a canoe, rifle, and ammunition. While Bob is checking if the canoe was usable, Charles finds a receipt in his pocket to use as tinder. The receipt contains information confirming his suspicions about his wife's infidelities with Bob.
When Bob returns to the cabin, he reveals that he plans to kill Charles for his wife. He orders Charles outside the cabin. Charles manages to lure Bob into a position causing him to fall into a deadfall. Bob is badly injured and begs Charles for his help. Charles removes Bob from the pit and tends to his wounds. They go downriver in the canoe together.
Charles makes camp with a fire to keep Bob warm. Bob apologizes for betraying Charles and says Mickey was unaware he intended to murder him. A helicopter appears and Charles successfully attracts its attention, but Bob dies before he can board.
Charles is brought back to the lodge and reveals to his wife that he is aware of her betrayal by handing her Bob's watch. He states to the press that the other men died, "saving my life."Anthony Hopkins as Charles Morse
Alec Baldwin as Robert Green
Harold Perrineau as Stephen
Elle Macpherson as Mickey Morse
L.Q. Jones as Styles
Kathleen Wilhoite as Ginny
David Lindstedt as James
Mark Kiely as Mechanic
Eli Gabay as Jet Pilot
Larry Musser as Amphibian Pilot
Gordon Tootoosis as Jack Hawk
Kelsa Kinsly as Reporter
Bart the Bear as the Kodiak bear
Principal photography began on August 19, 1996. Footage was taken primarily in Alberta, Canada. Among the Alberta locations were Banff National Park, Canmore, Edmonton, Thunderstone Quarries, Fortress Ski Resort and Allarcom Studios. Additional scenes were shot in Yoho National Park and Golden, both in British Columbia. Filming ended on November 22, 1996.
The shooting of the film is discussed by Art Linson in his 2002 book What Just Happened?, later made into a film starring Robert De Niro. Initially called Bookworm, the script was turned down by Harrison Ford and Dustin Hoffman before Alec Baldwin settled on the role of Green. De Niro showed some interest in the role of Morse but ultimately declined. Baldwin's unwillingness to shave a beard that he had grown for the role is reenacted by Bruce Willis in Barry Levinson's adaptation of Linson's book.
Like many other actors who had worked with Bart the Bear, Baldwin was extremely impressed with how well-trained and docile the bear was. Baldwin commented that Bart "should send the film editor a fruit basket every day for making him look so scary." As for Hopkins, who had worked with Bart in Legends of the Fall, he "was absolutely brilliant with Bart," according to trainer Lynn Seus, who went on to say that Hopkins "acknowledged and respected (Bart) like a fellow actor. He would spend hours just looking at Bart and admiring him. He did so many of his own scenes with Bart."
Three months before the film was to be released, the studio felt Bookworm needed a more commercial title. Dozens of others were considered, according to Linson, until the film was renamed The Edge.
The film's musical score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, who worked closely with director Lee Tamahori to develop a score more diverse than other works by Goldsmith in the 1990s. Initially, the score was released on CD in 1997, upon the film's release, by RCA Records. Over time, the first release went out of print, leading to La-La Land Records issuing a limited 3500-unit pressing of the complete score, which was also out of print by July 2013. The new release contains 25 minutes of unreleased music and fixes a problem found on the RCA release affecting the track "Rescued", which contained rustling noises during some quieter parts.
RCA Records track list:
- Lost In The Wild (3:01)
- The Ravine (4:38)
- Birds (2:24)
- Mighty Hunter (1:34)
- Bitter Coffee (3:03)
- Stalking (5:47)
- Deadfall (6:15)
- The River (2:21)
- Rescued (6:04)
- The Edge (2:57)
La-La Land Records track list:
- Early Arrival (1:32)*
- Lost In The Wild(s) (2:59)
- A Lucky Man/Open Door (1:41)* (does not include the final orchestral outburst as the "bear" bursts through the door, which only lasts for a few seconds)
- Mighty Hunter (1:31)
- The Spirit (0:36)*
- Birds (2:22)
- The Fire / Breakfast (2:31)*
- Rich Man (0:58)*
- The Ravine (4:36)
- Bitter Coffee (3:01)
- Wound (1:38)*
- Stephen's Death (2:26)* (contains an unused ending from 1:45 onwards)
- The Cage / False Hope / No Matches (3:34)* (contains crossfades between the three cues, although they are separated in the film)
- Stalking (5:46)
- Deadfall / Bear Fight (6:21)
- The Discovery / Turn Your Back (5:01)* (contains a brief alternate segment at 1:34 – 1:46)
- The River (2:26)
- Rescued (6:03)
- End Title (Lost In The Wild)(s) (1:59)*
- The Edge (2:55)
- False Hope (Alternate Take) (1:08)* (alternate of 0:56 – 2:00 of track 13, with more percussion and an additional brass melody)
- Rescued (Film Version Ending) (1:19)* (alternate ending of track 18, reflecting the film version)
- The Edge (Alternate Take) (3:00)* (alternate recording of track 20)
* = Previously unreleased
The Edge had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada on September 6, 1996. It was released in the U.S. on September 26, 1997 in 2,351 theaters. It grossed $7.7 million in its opening weekend. It went on to gross $27.8 million in the U.S. and $15.4 million overseas, for a worldwide total of $43.3 million in its theatrical run.
Upon release, The Edge received mixed to positive reviews from critics. Based on 47 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a 60% approval rating from critics, with an average score of 6.4/10. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, claiming the filmmakers did well by not going berserk with the action sequences as other films do. But, he did go on to criticize the ending by saying that:
"Having successfully negotiated almost its entire 118 minutes, The Edge
shoots itself in the foot. After the emotionally fraught final moments, just as we are savoring the implications of what has just happened, the screen fades to black and we immediately get a big credit for Bart the Bear. Now Bart is one helluva bear (I loved him in the title role of The Bear
), but this credit in this place is a spectacularly bad idea."
Following its initial release on VHS, The Edge was released on a non-anamorphic widescreen NTSC DVD in the US, with no extras, save the original theatrical trailer. Meanwhile, PAL DVDs released in Europe, Australia, etc. feature an anamorphic transfer, the trailer, a six-minute featurette, seven short cast and crew interviews and five text biographies. As of 2017, it has also been released on Blu-ray in the US and Germany, with the same extras as each country's DVD.