For his birthday, billionaire businessman Charles Morse (Anthony Hopkins) has been taken out to this large cabin in the Alaskan wilderness by his fashion model wife Mickey (Elle Macpherson) and a few friends, including the photographer she has got to know very well, Robert Green (Alec Baldwin). Once there, a local, Styles (L.Q. Jones) warns them that there's a threat of bears in the area, a fact that stays in Charles's photographic memory, so when later that night he ventures down to the kitchen to fetch Mickey a sandwich, he is alarmed to see the back door open...
When The Edge was first released, it was dismissed as a somewhat silly item of macho posturing by many, so it took a while for its cult to grow. However, once the likes of Ray Mears and Bear Grylls became must see television for a number of people, this began to catch on and find its feet as a movie with a fair but significant following. That's what the story was, a survival tale with Hopkins and Baldwin squaring off against Bart the Bear who is out for their blood having acquired the taste for human flesh, although there was more to this, as the question of whether Robert is scheming against his host arises.
This was drawn from a David Mamet script which as often in this technique delineated some kind of manly dilemma, and in this case what could be more masculine than pitting your wits against Mother Nature with a view to emerging the victor? Not just that, either, as Charles has to demonstrate that he is the better man in comparison with Robert, who he suspects of planning to murder him to get closer to Mickey, so when the plane they are in is brought down by a flock of geese, they have to work together lest they end up dead of exposure - or worse, gutted by the hungry bear which has taken a liking to them.
There is another person with them, and he is the luckless Stephen (Harold Perrineau), a survivor of the plane crash - the pilot doesn't make it - who is purely present to be chomped up by the bear. Here's some lazy screenwriting that somehow got through: he is given a knife and a stick to make a spear with by Charles, then offscreen manages to cut open his leg accidentally, which attracts the bear when it catches a whiff of the blood and results in him being devoured as Charles and Robert look on aghast. Was there any reason for Perrineau showing up for this other than for his character to be destroyed?
Nope, there wasn't, but once he's all too conveniently disposed of we can get to the heart of the plot, which is how the two remaining souls can beat the ursine menace and find their way back. Charles utilises that memory of his by continually piping up with facts about how to do the whole survival thing he has recently read in a book, and while not every one is useful, he is able to navigate through the dangers better than Robert, who simply loses his temper. All of this is to ilustrate the bookish billionaire's supremacy over his rival, and the question of whether he has lost his wife to this man is not one which has a surprising answer, but after a while you'll find yourself growing quite involved with this tale and the dilemmas, artificial as they may be, that result. Well, up to a point: the final half hour is light on bear action and heavy on Charles outwitting Robert, but even that is fine as far as it goes. Music by Jerry Goldsmith.