Adapted from the book by Alex Garland The Beach (2000) set in Thailand and off its coast, is a beautiful, scenic, Adventure/Thriller about an American traveller in search of going somewhere new and doing something different; he gets what he wishes for when he finds the most special, supposedly most perfect place on Earth ‘The Beach’ but then finds out that nothing including paradise is perfect. Directed by Danny Boyle and starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Tilda Swinton, Virginie Ledoyen, Guillaume Canet, Robert Carlye, Paterson Joseph and Lars Hansen.
Leonardo Dicaprio is Richard the adventurous, thrill seeking American tourist that arrives in Thailand and is tired of going the same places and doing the same things. He meets a eccentric character who would later be known as Daffy (Robert Carlye) who tells him of a ‘Beach’ that is not like any other “Oh that’s nice “beach, it is paradise and the people who live around it have different ideas from your everyday people, but it is very difficult to get there. The next day Richard notices that Daffy has left him a map to this ‘Beach.’ He convinces a French couple, Francoise (Virginie Ledoyen) and Etienne (Guillaume Canet) who is staying in the same hotel as himself to join him on this adventure. After a long, winding, rough journey and meeting the approval of Sal (Tilda Swinton) the leader of the group of tourists (that have similar ideals to Richard) that have settled in the village around it, they eventually get to ‘The Beach’ and it is BEAUTIFUL, just perfect, everything Daffy said about it and more. Now that Richard and his new friends have reached the ultimate living fantasy; being around people that are like them and living in a perfect location, what will go wrong?
Just like Richard, Director Danny Boyle attempts to live out every moment of every scene regardless of who or what is in it, in order to give the film and the audience the necessary energy for the scene straight after (e.g. when Richard and Sal go back to the mainland, watch what Richard sees a particular group of tourists doing). This works very effectively because normally your feelings and emotions travel over from the previous scene and in this sort of adventure/ thriller where it is dependent on the pacing and build up to moments, Danny Boyle’s direction gives the film even more power with this kind of style. He also uses images to good effect for moments when words cannot possibly describe the mood or what a character is going through accurately (e.g. Watch Richard in the woods running around).
The setting of ‘The Beach’ is as mentioned before BEAUTIFUL; it is probably the prettiest sight you have ever seen on screen, as though it was painted by set designers asking God for advice just for this film. Interestingly enough the film crew had actually flattened the beach with the use of tractors which made it unstable, however the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 restored the beach to its previous state which was to the relief of the natives. The other locations were also well researched and well chosen from the low budget hotel that Richard, Francoise and Etienne stayed in, to the little hut they stayed in en route to their destination, to the marijuana plantation to the beach itself. They all in their own way provided little stories symbolising Richard’s Journey from where he is, what he wants to leave behind and finally where he wants to be.
After the success of Trainspotting (1995) and a so so reaction to A Life Less Ordinary (1997), Danny Boyle needed a hit film; most believe this wasn’t it and even calling it a disappointment. I recommend you not to listen to these people and watch this film especially if you think going off somewhere new and doing something completely off the wall is worthwhile. I think it is a fantastic “All that glitters isn’t gold” type of film and if not anything, provides some interesting thoughts about paradise. So go out, watch and explore ‘The Beach’ have fun and stop listening to critics, what do they know anyway?