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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…

Review by Louise Keller:
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.

Published April 29, 2004

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

DIRECTOR: Daniel Boyle

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

RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes

PRESENTATION: widescreen 16: 9

SPECIAL FEATURES: Director’s Commentary; deleted scenes outtakes; alternate opening/ending; music video; gallery stills; cast/crew biographies

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: March 24, 2004

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