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|April 17, 2000||
William Golding wrote The Lord of Flies, about a bunch of kids stranded on an island. They grow up without man-made moral conditioning being thrust upon them. In spite of the exotic, paradise-like setting, these kids fall prey to the evil inherent in human nature.
The Beach, based on Alex Garland's novel, is also about a secluded island which is discovered by a group of travellers comprising people from all over the world.
'The Beach,' according to urban legends in Thailand, is a place where the sands are white, the water crystal blue, surrounded by fields with marijuana growing on them.
Richard (Leonardo Dicaprio), an American tourist, longs for the unconventional and seeks thrills. His observation of other tourists leads him to make statements like "we come all the way here to do all the things we did back home, tucking ourselves in motels." The next shot has a bunch of tourists watching Apocalypse Now in a multiplex.
Sure, we understand, the guy is bored to death. He comes across the same maladies that he saw back home. Enter Daffy Duck (Robert Carlyle), a hyperactive character, hooked on to drugs. In the course of the night, he befriends Richard and tells him about 'The Beach.'
The next morning, he is dead. But Richard finds Daffy's map tucked under his door. So off he goes with two French travellers to this beach. He takes them along simply because he is interested in the girl (Virgine Ledoyen).
After sometime the trio reaches 'The Beach.' And was the wait worth it?
Yes, with a capital Y!
We meet the denizens of this paradise, which include gun-toting marijuana farmers. We are made to understand that one has to pay the price for living in paradise and that the price is always high.
In the latter part, the film is all about peeling the layers of goodness away and showing the more scarred face of human beings. And despite shunning society for all that it represents, in the end, these inhabitants are no better than the rest.
When one of them is seriously injured, they leave him in the forest to die, because after a point, his constant moaning begins interrupting their fun. On a trip of their own, they shun pain by turning their eyes away from it.
Richard is able to distance himself from this community and goes on a separate trip, where he plays video games in his head and hide-and-seek with gun-toting farmers.
The climax of the film, though inevitable, is a big letdown. It is as if the makers were all out of grass and needed to wrap up the film as soon as possible.
Sure, there are positive sides to The Beach. The first half is rather good, the camerawork amazing and the island simply out-of-this-world!
Director Danny Boyle, whose earlier works include the riveting Shallow Grave and the comedy, A Life Less Ordinary, has always used some great soundtrack in his films. The Beach is no exception -- the soundtrack is a must buy.
But unlike his earlier films, where he displayed a remarkable ability to focus on the progression of the narrative, here he seems to lose focus and his train of thought.
Directors have this habit of paying tributes to films that have influenced them. Brian De Palma does it all the time -- Hitchcock (Body Double, Dressed To Kill) and Eisenstien (The Untouchables) -- being his favourites.
What Boyle does is that he first shows us Apocalypse Now (the bombing scene) and then shows Leonardo Di Caprio losing his mind and sitting in the shadows of his room, with only his eyes visible, mouthing philosophy. Unfortunately, it doesn't work!
In the end the only commendable factors in the film are the island and Leo, with some great music.
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