Kevin Reynolds (USA, 1952)
debuted with the satirical comedy
Fandango (1985), followed by the war movie
The Beast (1988) and
Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves
(1991), that began his collaboration with Kevin Costner.
After the exotic period drama Rapa-Nui (1994),
co-produced by Costner,
Reynolds directed his most important film,
also co-produced by Costner and written by Peter Rader,
inspired by the Mad Max saga after
adapting western movies and gangster movies (and perhaps also
to dystopian science fiction.
Much is implausible in the story but so is most science fiction.
The 1997 version shown on television contains an extra 40 minutes.
Other versions were show at different times on different TV channels.
The 171-minute "Ulysses cut" made by a fan in 2008 is the longest existing version of the film.
Centuries from now, the Earth is completely covered in water, due to the effects of global warming.
The film opens with a man peeing in a vase and then using a filter to purify his urine
and obtain drinkable water.
He is alone on a large boat in the middle of the ocean.
When a sailboat approaches, he immediately jumps in front of his cannon,
not trusting anyone. Bandits on speedboats armed with machine guns, called "Smokers", roam the ocean.
The lone drifter, however, has equipped his boat with a giant sail that allows
him to outsmart them.
He heads to an artificial atoll. He shows them a jar full of dirt and they
immediately open the giant gate for him to sail inside: dirt is a precious
We hear two men chatting about "Dryland", which some people exists at the end of the ocean.
Mariner (as he is known) gets a good price for his dirt but then he cannot buy much because the
store, run by a woman, Helen, and her little daughter Enola, doesn't have much.
He buys from her another valuable commodity: a tomato plant.
A family offers him a girl and he refuses, despite having been alone for more than a year, which means there's something wrong with his body.
They grab him and see that there are gills behind his ears. Realizing that he
is a mutant, they seize him and are about to destroy him when the man in charge
of keeping the peace, the Enforcer, intervenes and locks him in a cage.
Helen's friend Gregor, a scientist, is convinced that the tattoo on Enola's back is a coded map of where Dryland is, but he can't figure out how to decode it.
Gregor is curious about the mutant who also has webbed feet and can
therefore stay in water for a long time.
Gregor shows Mariner a drawing of the mysterious tattoo and asks Mariner if he
knows anything about Dryland.
Gregor begs him not to die with the secret.
Mariner asks to be freed first.
The following morning the people of the atoll sentence Mariner to be "recycled"
in a toxic pool. They just started lowering the cage when Smokers attack,
a terrifying fleet of speedboats.
The Smokers circle around the atoll. They are led by a bald man
They are equipped with machine guns, flame throwers, and even an airplane.
And their speedboats can go both under and above the walls of the atoll.
Gregor realizes that everything is lost and calls Helen and Enola to his
balloon, but the balloon takes off accidentally and is soon shot down by the bandits.
Helen, desperate, frees Mariner after he promises to take them with him.
Mariner and the ladies manage to escape on his boat
while panic spreads in the atoll.
Deacon's Smokers conquer the atoll and one of the men at the atoll turns out to be working for Deacon.
Deacon is looking for the tattooed girl (and the map to Dryland) and finds out that she left with the mutant.
Deacon lost an eye in the battle but his men are celebrating the victory.
Meanwhile on Mariner's boat there is a problem: Mariner admits that he's
heading for Dryland, that he knows where it is, but he doesn't have enough
drinking water for three people, so he wants to get rid of Enola.
Helen, desperate, offers him everything she has and eventually her naked body,
but Mariner replies that she has nothing to offer him that he needs.
Helen then grabs a gun but Mariner easily disarms her and knocks her unconscious.
He abandons the idea of killing the girl but remains hostile to her.
One day annoyed by her chitchat, he throws her in the water. The girl can't swim and Helen has to dive to save her.
The plane of the Smokers finds them.
The child is also silly enough to wave at the plane, thereby confirming her presence on on the boat.
The plane starts shooting at Mariner. Helen uses the cannon to shoot down
the plane not knowing that the cannon shoots a harpoon. This causes damage
to the boat before Mariner can finish the plane.
Furious, Mariner punishes her by chopping her hair.
Enola protests and Mariner chops her hair too.
A passing drifter offers to trade a sheet of paper for sex with Helen
and Mariner accepts, but then, after reading what's written on the sheet, changes his mind and kills the drifter.
Later, Helen and Enola watch in disbelief how Mariner captures a big fish
by offering himself as bait.
Suddenly, Mariner becomes friendlier to Enola and even teaches her how to swim.
One day Mariner realizes that Deacon's Smokers have surrounded his boat:
Deacon is on a vessel disguised as a friendly Portugreek boat (but in fact the
entire crew has been murdered) and submarine speedboats are ready to attack.
Mariner outsmarts them but realizes that they want the little girl.
Helen confesses that the little girl is the way to Dryland.
Mariner angrily tells her that Dryland doesn't exist: he has searched for it
all over and never found it.
She protests that the boat is full of objects that could only be from Dryland.
Mariner takes her on a diving expedition deep into the ocean and shows her
Dryland: a submerged city. That's where the objects come from.
And that's where he finds the dirt to trade.
Enola, alone on the boat, realizes that the Smokers found them again and hides.
When Mariner and Helen resurface, Deacon threatens to kill them if they don't
deliver Enola, and then Enola surrenders voluntarily.
While Deacon's men are distracted by the girl's tattoo, Mariner dives and pulls
Helen underwater and kisses her to give her oxygen until the Smokers leave.
The Smokers leave with Enola after destroying Mariner's boat.
Mariner and Helen, alone on the destroyed boat, make love.
The following day they are surprised by Gregor on his balloon.
Gregor lifts them to his balloon and takes them to a small atoll built by
the survivors of the original atoll, still led by the same peace keeper, the Enforcer.
Gregor is still trying to decipher the map that was tattooed on Enola's back
in order to find Dryland. Mariner and Helen tell them that the map is upside
down: Dryland is under the ocean. But the men refuse to believe them.
Mariner takes a speedboat left by the Smokers and promises Helen to bring back Enola.
Mariner boards Deacon's ship, an ancient oil tanker, while Deacon is giving a rousing speech to an ecstatic crowd. He lets them think that he knows where Dryland is when in fact they still haven't figured out Enola's map.
Mariner walks straight towards Deacon and drops a torch into the fuel chamber
of the ship, thus blowing it up and killing lots of Smokers.
Deacon grabs Enola and boards the plane trying to take off but Mariner makes it crash and rescues Enola from the wreckage.
The ship, engulfed in fire, is sinking but Gregor's balloon, with Helen and Enforcer, arrives in time to save Mariner and Enola.
Deacon doesn't give up: he grabs a gun and shoots at the balloon, causing
Enola to fall in the water.
Mariner ties a rope to his foot and dives from the sky, using the rope as
a bungee cord to pick up Enola and bounce back on the balloon.
Deacon and other Smokers collide and involuntarily blow up themselves.
Gregor finally figures out the map tattooed on Enola's back and steers the balloon in the direction of Dryland. After a few days of travel he Mariner, Enforcer, Helen, and Enola reach a green island in the ocean.
They land and enjoy the fresh water.
They find a cabin and two skeletons, a man and a woman, and sketches on paper in the same language (Chinese?) of the tattoos.
Enola finds a musicbox that plays the tune that she has been singing ever since.
We realize that the skeletons were Enola's parents who tattooed their location on her back and sent her away (but not clear why they would do that: why are the odds that the girl would survive and why attract visitors anyway?)
Mariner is a creature of the sea and decides to sail away.
The extended version of the film shows a plaque that reveals the name of the "island": Mount Everest.
After parting from Costner, Reynolds directed the thriller
One Eight Seven (1997),
The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), an adaptation of
Alexandre Dumas's novel (1844),
Tristan & Isolde (2006),
produced by Ridley and Tony Scott,
an adaptation of the medieval novel,
and the historical Risen (2016), set after the crucifixion of Jesus.