Wednesday, November 02, 2016
The Beach (2000 film)
Based on the novel by Alex Garland, The Beach is the story of an American college student who travels to Thailand to find a mysterious island with a couple of young French people as they find all of the splendor as well as danger about its secrecy. Directed by Danny Boyle and screenplay by John Hodge, the film is an exploration into the idea of paradise only for things to go wrong when there isn’t such a thing. Starring Leonardo diCaprio, Virginie Ledoyen, Robert Carlyle, Guillaume Canet, and Tilda Swinton. The Beach is a mesmerizing yet uneven film from Danny Boyle.
Set largely in Thailand, the film follows an American college student who is given a map to a mysterious island as he brings along a French couple to join him where they find paradise but have to take great risks to maintain its secrecy. It’s a film that isn’t about people trying to find something different from the many conventional ideas of being on vacation but also wanting something more. Yet, their discovery of a secret community who wants to maintain that sense of paradise eventually becomes uneasy where it is clear that its habitants are sharing the island with Thai cannabis farmers who aren’t so keen in letting anymore outsiders into the island. John Lodge’s screenplay is largely told from the perspective of its protagonist in Richard (Leonardo diCaprio) as this young American college student who goes to Thailand seeking adventure and something different from the banality of conventional society.
Lodge’s script succeeds in exploring the island and why it’s so secretive as well as establish the characters such as Richard, the French couple Etienne (Guillaume Canet) and Francoise (Virginie Ledoyen), one of the island community’s founder in Daffy (Robert Carlyle) who would give Richard the map to the island, and the community’s leader Sal (Tilda Swinton). Yet, it’s in the narrative and its tone where the script falters as the first half starts off as this adventure for paradise where everything seems fine. Then it darkens once it moves into the second half where a community resident’s death starts to shake things where it goes into bits of surrealism as well as some dark suspense about what some will do to maintain this place a secret. It becomes a different film as well as something very strange where Richard is forced to watch outsiders who have a copy of a map that Richard drew for these American stoners as it would lead to all sorts of trouble.
Danny Boyle’s direction is definitely stylish in terms of not just the setting of the locations but also in the surreal elements in the film. Shot on location in parts of Bangkok and at the Maya Bay at Ko Phi Phi Lee in Thailand, the film plays into a world that is in conflict with the chaos of modernism and the serenity of this beach that Richard, Etienne, and Francoise would discover and live at for a time. Boyle’s usage of the wide and medium shots would play into the beauty of the locations as well as the sense of community in the people who live near the beach. Boyle would also use close-ups and some gorgeous shots for some of the intimate moments yet he is faltered by the film’s uneven script. Notably in the second half where it gets dark as it does feel like a different movie as it includes this very weird video game sequence where Richard pretends to be in a video game as it also include some references to Apocalypse Now as its third act is a really messy one. Though it would have a strong conclusion as it play into the fallacy of paradise, it also shows some of the ugliness in humanity that is no different from the chaos that is happening in the modern world. Overall, Boyle creates a compelling yet flawed film about a young man finding a map leading to paradise only it isn’t what it really seems to be.
Cinematographer Darius Khondji does brilliant work with the film‘s colorful cinematography in capturing the beauty of the beach locations in the day as well as some of the scenes set at night along with some of the scenes set in Bangkok. Editor Masahiro Hirakubo does nice work with the editing as it has some stylish rhythmic cuts and jump-cuts to play into the frenetic energy as well as in some of the low-key dramatic moments. Production designer Andrew McAlpine, with set decorator Anna Pinnock and supervising art director Rod McLean, does fantastic work with the look of the hotel rooms in Bangkok as well as the little resort the residents of the beach live at. Costume designer Rachel Fleming does terrific work with the costumes as it is mostly casual with the exception of the clothes that Sal wears that emphasizes her role as a leader.
Special effects supervisor Clive Beard and digital visual effects supervisor Robert Duncan do some fine work with the minimal visual effects as it involve a sequence with sharks as well as a balloon ceremony. Sound designer Glenn Freemantle does superb work with the sound as it play into some of the sparse and intimate moments at the beach to the layers of sound in Bangkok as it‘s unruly. The film’s music by Angelo Badalamenti is wonderful for its ambient-based score to play into the serenity of the island while music supervisor Pete Tong provide a fun soundtrack that features a few score pieces from John Cale and Brian Eno plus contributions by New Order, Blur, Moby, Faithless, Barry Adamson, Sugar Ray, All Saints, the Chemical Brothers, Unkle with Richard Ashcroft, Orbital, Leftfield, Underworld, and Asian Dub Foundation.
The casting by Gail Stevens is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Peter Youngblood Hills and Jerry Swindall as a couple of American tourists Richard meet on the way to the mysterious beach, Saskia Mulder and Simone Huber as the German girlfriends of those American tourists, Staffan Kihlbom, Jukka Hiltunen, and Magnus Lindgren as a trio of Swedish residents of the beach, Daniel Caltagirone as the community’s chef Unhygienix who has an unhealthy obsession with being clean, and Lars Arentz-Hansen as Sal’s boyfriend/community carpenter Bugs who has a dislike towards Richard and vice versa. Paterson Joseph is superb as Keaty as a member of the community who is kind of the film’s conscience as he starts to see the community unravel following an incident as well as try to get Richard to see reason when he is tasked by Sal to do something about the unwelcome visitors. Abhijati “Meuk” Jasakul is terrific as the head cannabis farmer who doesn’t like outsiders as he has this very eerie presence as well as someone who has found a way to live outside of the modern world without compromise. Robert Carlyle is fantastic as Daffy as a founder of the beach whom Richard meets in Bangkok as a man who has become insane and displays his own disdain towards modern society as he would give Richard the map to the beach.
Tilda Swinton is brilliant as Sal as the beach community’s leader who allows Richard, Etienne, and Francoise to be part of the community as she is intent on keeping the secrecy of the beach by any means necessary. Guillaume Canet is excellent as Etienne as a young Frenchman who is the most helpful and skilled person of the trio as he also finds himself competing with Richard for Francoise’s affection. Virginie Ledoyen is amazing as Francoise as a young Frenchwoman who goes on the journey as she is the most artistic as she is charmed by Richard as well as become disenchanted with Sal’s refusal to accept the real consequences of some of the tragedies that occur. Finally, there’s Leonardo diCaprio in a remarkable performance as Richard as a young American college student seeking adventure only to find horror later on as he nearly loses it as it one of diCaprio’s more overlooked performances that has him be full of energy as well as display some eerie moments.
The Beach is a terrific yet flawed film from Danny Boyle. Despite its messy and inconsistent script, the film does feature an excellent soundtrack, beautiful locations, and a fantastic cast led by Leonardo diCaprio. In the end, The Beach is a stellar film from Danny Boyle.
Danny Boyle Films: (Shallow Grave) - Trainspotting - A Life Less Ordinary - 28 Days Later - Millions - Sunshine - Slumdog Millionare - 127 Hours - Trance - Steve Jobs - (T2)
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