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BEACH, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a young American who questions his status quo - is comfortable western society really what we aspire to as human beings? He backpacks to Thailand in search of an adventure that might free him from the normalities of his existence - to find something else, whatever that is. In his cheap Bangkok hotel, he meets Daffy (Robert Carlyle) who tells him about the world's perfect beach on a remote, hidden island paradise. Richard invites fellow travellers Françoise (Virginie Ledoyen) and Etienne (Guillaume Canet) to join him on the questionable quest. On reaching their destination, they find a giant field of marijuana - heavily guarded. They push on and are welcomed into a community living in secret on the island, headed by Sal (Tilda Swinton). But living in paradise is not all it seems…

"At what cost paradise is the theme of The Beach, a bewitching story where dreams collide with consequences. Glorious to look at, the first half of the film is an adventure – the pursuit of change, pleasure and excitement. But paradise has a price – and so begins the morality tale. By clever narrative structure coupled with tight close-ups, we are drawn into Richard's mind, getting a clear insight into the way he thinks, lusts and laments. Richard is all too believable – especially in the hands of Leonardo DiCaprio, whose talent radiates in every frame. Looking at times like a young James Dean, DiCaprio is one extraordinary talent. Breathtakingly handsome in a boyish way, his charisma, intensity and very persona is magnetic. He has the ability to lose himself in a role, so that we never feel we are watching the actor at work, but are involved with his character. A flawed character, but one that we embrace wholeheartedly. The cinematography caresses the locations – the island's cerulean water framed by virgin white sand are breathtakingly beautiful. So too are the underwater scenes and striking aerial photography, engulfing us in a far away world – but is the claustrophobia heaven or hell? An underwater kiss is a magical world of beauty, a sea of bubbles; being pursued by a shark is an enigmatic nightmare. Memorable images enhanced by the music. Well-written characters and excellent performances all round keep us engrossed throughout this gripping and thought provoking film. Tilda Swinton and Robert Carlyle are especially memorable in disturbing and chilling roles. The Beach leaves behind a mood – one that you will want to dip into long after the film is over. You will relive the beauty and the fantasy, the mystique of its dark undertones, sobering."
Louise Keller

"Relying for much of its power on Leonardo DiCaprio's performance, The Beach is a darned good attempt at paraphrasing a novel that obviously deals with several complex issues. But because cinema is so much a tool for the exploration of character, The Beach succeeds, thanks to Leo. Not only, obviously, but largely. And thanks to the direction of Daniel Boyle with the cinematography of Darius Khondji, DiCaprio is almost always in the frame and almost always a gripping, engaging sight as he travels from an outer consciousness to an inner conscience - but not as he anticipated when he began his physical travels. The remarkable thing about the film is its ability to sway from one mood and tone to another; from a thrilling adventure story to a morality play and from a love story to a social exploration. Boyle manages all this because he knows exactly where the film is going and how to take his audience along. And that, in turn, relies on his gut feeling that what we are hanging onto is a recognition of a part of ourselves in Richard - no doubt an obvious element, but it need not have worked so well in lesser hands then these (writer, actor, director). The delusions we create for ourselves are far more dangerous than we may imagine and The Beach serves up plenty of proof of that. It's a terrific drama that leaves a haunting memory."
Andrew L. Urban

"A strong central theme, attractive performers and lush visuals are almost enough to cover the shortcomings of this Lost Horizon/Lord Of The Flies/Heart Of Darkness/Apocalypse Now - inspired trek into heaven and hell, backpacker style. Based on the 1997 novel by Alex Garland, The Beach makes incisive comments on the big issue of soul-dead westerners seeking spiritual paradise in exotic locales but is less successful with the smaller details. The story is absorbing and Leonardo Di Caprio is ideally cast as the wide eyed American intoxicated by the notion that truth and meaning are attainable by going as far as possible from everyday surroundings. The first half of the film moves crisply as Richard receives the map from the deranged Daffy, gets hot and bothered over the stunning Françoise and makes the mistake of giving a dreadful duo of American stoners a copy of the precious document. The use of irony-laced voice-over, echoing Willard's journey in Apocalypse Now, effectively balances the excitement of discovery with darker premonitions of a nightmare at the end of the rainbow. Unfortunately we don't get much more than a superficial sketch of the inhabitants of this Shangri-La or how it has managed to prosper in peace and secrecy for 5 years before the playhouse comes crashing down. The exception is Sal, a kind of distaff Colonel Kurtz played by the formidable Tilda Swinton. This quiet destroyer is the film's most interesting element and it's a pity other characterisations don't register as strongly. The Beach disappoints by playing its philosophical cards too lightly and focussing more intently on mundane matters like whether or not Richard will bed Françoise. It's a return to form for director Danny Boyle and his Trainspotting team after A Life Less Ordinary but misses out on making a significant statement by taking the easy path (and altering major portions of Garland's work). That will hardly matter to Di Caprio's legion of young fans who'll be pleased to see the pinup boy running shirtless through the jungle and engaging in energetic beachside trysts with the foxy Frenchwoman but you may well be left with the feeling this could have been something special instead of middling entertainment. "
Richard Kuipers

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

TRAILER

Nick Roddick meets LEONARDO DICAPRIO

FEATURE

BEACH, THE (MA 15+)
(US)

CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton, Virginie Ledoyen, Staffan Kihlbom, Guillaume Canet, Robert Carlyle, Magnus Lindgren, Victoria Smurfit

DIRECTOR: Daniel Boyle

PRODUCER: Andrew MacDonald

SCRIPT: John Holdge (Based on the book by Alex Garland)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Darius Khondji A.S.C., A.F.C.

EDITOR: Masahiro Hirakubo

MUSIC: Angelo Badalamenti

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Andrew McAlpine

RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 9, 2000

VIDEO RELEASE: October 18, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment

VIDEO SELLTHROUGH RELEASE: May 30, 2001







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