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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 7/18/00

The Beach
2000 (2000) - 20th Century Fox

review by Brad Pilcher of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Beach Film Rating: C

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B/A-

Specs and Features

119 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:12:39, in chapter 18), Amaray keep case packaging, commentary with director Danny Boyle, theatrical trailers and TV spots, 9 deleted scenes, storyboards, promo spot, "making of" featurette, All Saints music video for Pure Shores, cast and crew bios, animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (30 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Spanish, Closed Captioned

"I just feel like everybody always tries to do something different, but they always end up doing the same damned thing."

I scratch my forehead as I think back on the two hours I just spent watching The Beach. I'm not entirely sure what happened. I do know what could have happened, but I also know that none of those things happened. The sad thing is... THAT is probably the best thing I can say about this movie.

Before I break down the plot, let me just say that the trailers for this movie are, by far, the most misleading previews I've ever seen. Almost every line in the trailers is taken out of context to give the idea of a completely more exhilarating (not to mention entirely different) storyline. I suppose if you'd read the book beforehand, you'd know better. I didn't... so I didn't.

The story opens as Richard (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) arrives in Bangkok, Thailand. We're flushed with a gritty, sweaty look that makes you decidedly uneasy. Richard's character, on the other hand, seems to be looking for that kind of unknown. It's an intriguing beginning, without having to present you with much in the way of dialogue or setup. There is one disconcerting element to this, however. The first line of the film has Richard telling you his name, and then telling you that you don't need to know anymore about him. Ummm, hello? Character development? But from the beginning and through most of the film, you get none... so you don't really care much for most of the characters.

In any event, the story then introduces the categorically loony "Daffy" who spouts off about a paradise island that is nearly impossible to find, but worth trying. Before he offs himself though, he politely leaves a map for Richard (thus making it much less impossible). Richard proceeds to recruit the French couple next door (mostly because he wants to - uhm, how do I say this politely? - bang the girl), and a few days later they've arrived. Here is where the trailers would have you believe that some sort of drug-pushing thugs overrun their paradise, but this isn't the case. In fact, that never happens. The drug-pushing thugs aren't even thugs, and they allow the paradise to exist in peace, as long as it is kept a secret. Huh?

So where's the drama you ask? Well, I couldn't really tell you. There was the potential for a love triangle, but that got deflated almost immediately. You see, the French guy only wants his girlfriend to be happy, so he grudgingly agrees to his lover switching into Richard's bed. Gotta love the French! Some drama could have come from a scene where one of the paradise society members is attacked by a shark. He just won't die, and soon his screams are upsetting the others. That horrible little sub-plot goes nowhere. I feel wrong even calling it a sub-plot. It's more like a barely consequential plot point.

All of this anti-drama leads to a very weighed down middle. The impossibility of their reaching paradise is taken away because the map spells it out for them. Once they get there, the drug-pushers say, "Sure! Live in peace with us." Any little stories that could have gone somewhere are purposely collapsed. Just about everything else feels like filler leading up to a climax that is as poorly executed as anything I've seen on film. I won't give it away because... well, I suppose some of you are going to watch this film.

The sum of this little story is that it could have been very good in a number of ways. The Beach just chose not to be any of those things, and instead went for trying to be a moving postcard kind of thing. The fact that DiCaprio, who is a good actor, will forever be held back by his legions of preteen fans didn't help. And if you followed this production at all, you may have heard that the cast & crew absolutely ruined the beach they were shooting on. There's no point to mentioning that, except that it makes this film all the more puzzling.

The flip side, is that the audio and video on this DVD are quite good. This film may stall because of its story, but the cinematography and scenery is splendid. This anamorphic disc helps bring that beauty into the home in a very good way. The colors are all appropriately vibrant without bleeding. The darks are just dark enough and the grain is a non-issue. Artifacting doesn't pose a problem, so what we have is a solid piece of video. The audio, while never really requiring much in the way of big booms and bangs, is sufficiently spatial. You'll hear the surf around you, but that's about it.

Where this disc makes its best effort at salvaging the film's worthiness is in the extras department. Director Danny Boyle chimes in on a commentary that is pretty informative, if a bit uninspired. If anything, he just shows how much he missed the boat on developing the plot. An equally uninspired and forgettable music video from the soundtrack is included. The song is Pure Shores by All Saints (a sort of Spice Girls-esque group with more musical talent). There's a storyboard gallery, which is good. The deleted scenes (with commentary) are also good, but they do one thing: show you just how much character development was needed. If they'd left some of these scenes in and cut some of the filler from the middle, they would have had an infinitely better film. Rounding out the bunch is a mixture of trailers (two versions, one teaser trailer and an international trailer) with a whole bunch of TV spots. This is cool, but how many TV spots can you watch? And even after all the solid content on this disc, it's still really hard to appreciate this movie.

I have to let out a deep, hollow sigh about The Beach, if only because this film is so beautiful from a visual standpoint, and it had lots of potential. But in the end, even the sex scenes suck. You should probably rent this film if you're at all interested, but I'd be remiss if I even marginally recommended a buy.

Brad Pilcher
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