Sunday, 21 February 2010

No.11 : The Beach

Time for a bit of sunshine to brighten these dark winter days at the Definitive Article Blog.

Danny Boyle’s film of Alex Garland’s book has a poor reputation, with most people (as usual) preferring the latter. I’m about halfway through the book and as good as it is I do have a soft spot for the cracking locations and extra sex scenes included in the movie.

The film follows the adventures of Richard, an American backpacker doing all the touristy things in Bangkok. He’s trying to do something different but unfortunately everyone else has the same idea and he ends up fighting the throngs and watching old movies instead. That is until Daffy shows up in the next room and over some lovely drugs he tells him of a paradise beach unspoiled by the beery yobs, for now.

Richard takes it with a pinch of salt but when he finds a map from Daffy pinned to his door and the dope addled Scotsman dead he decides to look it up with his two French pals in tow. The beach is meant to be remote and hard to find but clearly we want to get there as soon as possible soa few quick edits later we’re there, inside the first twenty minutes.

The beach is as lovely as suggested but dangers lurk nearby in the shape of dope farmers and sharks in the lagoon. Such concerns are saved for later and we then get maybe an hour of idyllic beach life with a cracking soundtrack and girls in bikinis before a shark attack changes everything. With one person dead and another dying the camp starts to split over what to do next. Actually just one French bloke stops to look after the victim while the rest get on with having fun.

Obviously the hedonistic lifestyle can’t go on for ever and when another group appear armed with a map from Richard it’s clear that things are going to get pretty bad pretty soon.

I enjoyed the first hour of the film and it’s a shame that there had to be some dramatic elements inserted to stop it just being a promo film for the Thailand tourist board. These are the film’s undoing as the character arc of Richard is totally unbelievable even with Leo Di Caprio doing his best. Basically he goes from wide eyed tourist to jungle ninja and back again in half an hour. There is an attempt to show his character being slowly seduced by Sal, the camp’s enigmatic leader, with him first agreeing to a bit of tooth pulling before condoning to murder and worse.

Sal herself, played by Tilda Swinton, isn’t that well defined either with her motivations unclear - is it the power or the life style she likes? Or is it just shagging the campers? I suppose to some a beautiful beach with unlimited dope would be great but I think I’d be bored after a week and missing the football scores. The subtext of the beach and the community corrupting the youth who are quick to shelve their values and ideals for a bit of lounging around didn’t really work for me and as a lesson in human nature it could learn a lot from ‘The Lord of the Flies’.

The cast are all very likable with Johnston out of ‘Peep Show’ doing a great turn. The sets are wonderful as is the emotive soundtrack that only failed in not using ‘Pure Shores’ by All saints to greater effect. The shark bite make up is also worth a mention with it having a real ‘bet that hurt’ quality about it. Also painful is the scene where Leo turns into a video game - I bet the farmer’s field was plundered the night they came up with that bit!

Overall this is enjoyable film that trails off towards the end. The vibe for the first hour is great and the cast are clearly having a cracking time as you’d expect. The road to damnation was signposted early on but at least we had some fun getting there.

THE Tag Line : Life’s a beach and then you get eaten by a shark 70%

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