Wit and humour make for a winning story

Peter Riegert and Burt Lancaster star in 'Local Hero'.
Peter Riegert and Burt Lancaster star in 'Local Hero'.

It’s difficult to believe it’s 30 years since ‘Local Hero’ was released but the film has lost none of its relevance and charm over the decades.

And this tale from Scottish writer/director Bill Forsyth of wiley Highland locals putting one over on big business has charm in spades. Also, given the current petrol and fuel situation, the fact the big business concerned is an oil company is probably more satisfying than it was in 1983.

High-flying executive ‘Mac’ MacIntyre (Peter Riegert) is sent over to Scotland from Texas by his boss Mr Happer (Burt Lancaster) to acquire the village of Ferness for Knox Oil & Gas as a site for a giant oil refinery. Mac teams up with regional Knox representative Danny Oldsen (Peter Capaldi) at the company’s Scottish operation in Aberdeen where the true scale of the project is revealed. They also meet marine biologist Marina (Jenny Seagrove).

Thinking he can conclude the deal in a few days, Mac is frustrated by the village’s more ponderous pace of life, typified by his only contact with the outside world - the by-now famous red telephone box. He spends several weeks negotiating with community representative Gordon Urquhart (Denis Lawson) and gradually slips into community life himself, forgetting the trappings of his executive lifestyle.

Danny, meanwhile, strikes up a relationship with Marina, a regular visitor, who thinks the duo are there to follow-up on her proposal for a marine research facility. Throughout, the locals are seduced by the money involved, apart from Ben Knox, an eccentric but sharp beachcomber (Fulton Mackay) who is the only stumbling block to the plans.

It’s a masterful piece of work by Bill Forsyth both as director and storyteller. Full of gentle wit without the black and white of “community good, big business bad”, the whole thing is underplayed beautifully by the entire cast making for a real cinematic treasure.