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The Telegraph

The Mosquito Coast, review: Paul Theroux’s novel re-imagined as a plodding Breaking Bad wannabe

Neil Cross made his reputation with Luther, a copper caper starring Idris Elba and distinguished by storylines of dizzying ludicrousness. But there is little of Luther’s pulpy charm in his Apple TV+ adaptation of Paul Theroux’s meditative 1981 bestseller, The Mosquito Coast. One issue is that it’s barely an adaptation at all. Cross has essentially ditched Theroux’s storyline and kept only the name and the literary kudos. Presumably the author isn’t too miffed, as he is listed as an executive producer. Rather than Paul Theroux, the big influence on this glum and clichéd thriller is Walter White. Breaking Bad’s “difficult man” anti-hero has become the TV stereotype to rule them all, spawning legions of off-White imitators. Cross has decided we need another. That becomes obvious the moment we are introduced to glowering conspiracy freak Allie Fox, played with a chiselled-in scowl by Justin Theroux (Paul’s nephew and documentarian Louis’s cousin). It is massively derivative. Once again, a dad-next-door has been driven around the twist by the grim realisation that modern life is essentially a huge pain in the behind. Back in the day he would have dealt with this by nipping to the pub or staying up late watching a war movie. But in the land of prestige television only a scorched earth response will suffice. The Mosquito Coast refers to a dense jungle province of Honduras, to which Allie drags his family in a bid to escape America and the scourge of unchecked consumerism, a reliable electricity supply, sanitation etc. Or at least that’s what he does in the novel (and in Peter Weir’s 1986 Harrison Ford-starring movie). But Cross is in no immediate hurry to leave Southern California. This is where Allie and family live off-grid yet always glancing over their shoulders for the inevitable squall of police sirens.