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The Mosquito Coast

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What it’s about:

Brilliant inventor Allie Fox is idealistic to a fault. He wants to live in a world that’s better than the exploitative and materialistic one he inhabits and he’s doing what he can to make that world. But that requires some moral flexibility, which leads to trouble with the law. Allie finds himself on the run from government agents, who want something he has. The season follows Allie and his family as they try to escape America for greener pastures in Latin America.

Names you might know:

The adventure drama series stars The Leftovers’ Justin Theroux, who also executive produces. It’s loosely based on a famous 1981 novel of the same name by Justin’s uncle Paul Theroux. Melissa George co-stars.

Why it’s worth your time:

Watching The Mosquito Coast, you get the sense that Apple TV+ was trying to make its version of Netflix’s immensely popular thriller series Ozark. And it succeeded. The Mosquito Coast is as exciting as Ozark, with none of the outrageous blue-green tint.

Like Jason Bateman’s Ozark, Justin Theroux’s The Mosquito Coast is a vehicle for the producer and star to play a complicated, charismatic father who moves his family to a culturally foreign location after his choices put them in mortal danger. Allie Fox isn’t as bad a guy as Marty Byrde, but he’s grandiose and controlling, which leads to conflict with his family, especially his teenage daughter Dina (Logan Polish), who chafes at her father’s authoritarian rules that keep them isolated from society. And she’s just like him in her willingness to break the rules in shocking ways if she has to, because the Foxes are an incredibly tight-knit family. All they have are each other.

And despite his many faults, you find yourself rooting for Allie to get away with all the stuff he’s trying, because he’s such a smart, resourceful, likable guy.

The pilot and second episode–which are currently available to stream, with the rest dropping Fridays on Apple TV+–are directed by Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ Rupert Wyatt, who gives it kinetic energy and dusty, golden light. It also has a great score from Antonio Pinto and equally great music supervision. You’ll have Morrissey’s “First of the Gang to Die” stuck in your head for days after watching the second episode.

The Mosquito Coast isn’t doing anything particularly inventive, but it’s well-made and well-acted. It’s basically a prequel to the novel, showing how the Foxes get to the titular region in Honduras, but it keeps the feeling of a page-turning paperback thriller. It’s not great art, but it sure is entertaining.

The takeaway:

The Mosquito Coast is a family-on-the-run drama that will have you yelling “Oh my God!” at your TV at some of the twists and surprises. If you’re looking for a new thriller series to hold you over until Ozark returns for Season 4, this is it.

Watch it with:

Whoever you want to talk about it with. This is the kind of show that could develop strong word-of-mouth buzz as more people get into it, and if you get in early, you could be the one spreading the word. You could watch it alone and then text your friends who are also watching it: “lol Allie’s crazy.”

Worth noting:

For those familiar with the 1986 movie adaptation of the same name, don’t expect this to have much in common with it. If anything, that version—from Oscar-winning director Peter Weir and acclaimed screenwriter Paul Schrader, and starring Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, River Phoenix, and Andre Gregory (of My Dinner with Andre fame)—is more faithful to the source material. Which is surprising, given Justin Theroux’s relationship to the original author. But maybe that fact gives him more leeway than anyone.

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