In 1985, the flagship of the Greenpeace fleet, the Rainbow Warrior, was scheduled to take part in a protest against French nuclear testing in the South Pacific. The ship never got there, however—it was deliberately sunk in New Zealand waters by members of the French security forces. One individual, photographer Fernando Pereira, died as a result, France paid over $8 million to Greenpeace in reparations, and the ensuing scandal forced the resignation of French Defense Minister Charles Hernu. This incident may also have hastened the end of nuclear testing in French Polynesia, although that’s harder to say, as they continued for another 11 years.
This event supplies the subject matter for the 1993 television movie The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, also known simply as The Rainbow Warrior, directed by Michael Tuchner from a screenplay by Martin Copeland and Scott Busby. It’s a film that wears its politics on its sleeve, opening with a screen crawl detailing the extent of nuclear testing in the South Pacific and the ensuing consequences to the health of those who live there.
Rainbow Warrior wastes little time getting down to business—the French plot is already in place as the ship arrives in Auckland harbor, and the Rainbow Warriorgoes down (with numerous crew members aboard, although almost all got off safely) within the first 20 minutes. The bulk of the film is concerned with the investigation into what is quickly identified as sabotage, led by straight-arrow Auckland police superintendent Alan Galbraith (Sam Neill) in the film’s strongest performance. Other cast members include Bruno Lawrence as an Auckland police detective who is not particularly sympathetic to the ecologists’ cause but does the right thing anyway, John Callen as New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange, who wants the case solved as soon as possible, Kerry Fox as crew member Andrea Joyce, and Jon Voigt as Rainbow Warrior captain Peter Wilcox. There’s also lots of local actors who will be unfamiliar to most Americans, as well as one that will be—Lucy Lawless (Xena the Warrior Princess) has a small part.
You’ll have no problem telling the goodies from the baddies in Rainbow Warrior—the Greenpeace sailors sport healthy good looks and big smiles and the New Zealand police force is absolutely righteous, while the French operatives practically twirl their mustaches and talk in Pepe le Pew accents as they peer through their binoculars and contemplate taking down an unarmed ship. While the politics of Rainbow Warrior may be laid on with a trowel, however, it’s still an enjoyable film, with production values well above that of a typical television movie. The location cinematography by Warrick Attewell is particularly good, showcasing the beauty of Auckland in sun-drenched daytime panoramas and sinister night shots. The cast has a cacophony of accents, but that’s understandable given the international nature of Greenpeace (those unused to the Kiwi accent, however, may occasionally wish this film was supplied with subtitles). | Sarah Boslaugh
The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior is distributed on DVD by Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The only extras on the disc are trailers for four other Kino Lorber Studio Classics films: Runaway Train, Coming Home, Juggernaut, and When Eight Bells Toll.