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20th Century Fox presents
The Beach (2000)

"I just feel like everyone tries to do something different. But they just wind up doing the same damn thing."
- Richard (Leonardo Dicaprio)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: July 04, 2000

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio
Other Stars: Tilda Swinton, Virginie Ledoyen, Guillaume Canet, Robert Caryle
Director: Danny Boyle

MPAA Rating: R for violence, some strong sexuality, language and drug content
Run Time: 01h:58m:00s
Release Date: July 25, 2000
UPC: 024543001768
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- C+AA B+

DVD Review

Coming into 2000, The Beach was one of many films I was strongly looking forward to seeing, since the book by Alex Garland was one of three that helped defined my young adult years. Alongside novels like High Fidelity and Fight Club, The Beach told a story that to us young Gen-Xers was deeply personal—a virtual anthem. But, while the tone of the novels was succesfully carried to the screen with High Fidelity and Fight Club, this is NOT the case with The Beach.

As the movie opens, Richard (DiCaprio) has arrived in Bangkok from America, trying to escape the normalcy of home. In his seedy hotel, he meets three strangers who will change his life. To his right are a young French couple, Étienne (Canet) and Françoise (Ledoyen), and to his left is a manic Scotsman named Daffy (Carlyle). Before slicing open his wrists, Daffy gives Richard a map to a secluded island paradise—a utopia according to an urban myth. Along with Étienne and Françoise, Richard goes in search of this island, and once there finds true paradise. After arriving on the island Richard and his friends are welcomed into the small island community of twenty-somethings. Led by Sal (Tilda Swinton), the commune basically follows a back-to-nature tenet, having given up on "civilization" in order to live in peace without the hassles of the outside world. But Richard and his two friends slowly learn that paradise is not all it's cracked up to be.

I suppose that the allure of an island paradise touches us all. The prospect of leaving the responsibility that comes with every day life behind is very appealing. For the people in this film that is indeed how it is. The failing here for me is that unlike the book the film skips past what brought the many people to this magical place. In the novel there was enough backstory about most of the characters that I knew why they had risked death to get away from everything. But in the film there is no evidence of it anywhere.

Taken for its face value The Beach is a somewhat entertaining, lavish and exiting movie, which unfortunately only lasts for about half of the film's near two-hour length. The part that had me most interested was the love triangle between Richard and his two French friends, but this never develops beyond a minor confrontation. Director Danny Boyle has made fantastic films before and I am sure that he will again, but The Beach lacks the darkness of his Trainspotting and the inventiveness of his A Life Less Ordinary. He seems limited in his first major Hollywood film, with hardly anything creative or original—save for a video game-like sequence. The script by John Hodge is one-dimensional and leaves little room for any plot or character development. Only cinematographer Daruis Khondji (a favorite of mine since his work on Seven) comes out clean, his camerawork paints a beautiful picture—probably the best work I have seen all year.

Like the crew, the cast is hit and miss. French actors Ledoyen and Canet both do well with what little is given to them, but the various newcomers filling supporting roles fail to leave a lasting impression. Fresh off Titanic, DiCaprio truly amazed me for his portrayal here of the self-assured Richard. While I disliked Titanic, I believe he was the best thing about it. The same goes here, and I hope that soon he will get the credit his fine acting talent warrants.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: This is the kind of transfer that makes me long for an anamorphic television. The 2.35:1 image presented here is easily reference quality. Just look at the neon red at the start of the film. No bleeding is evident in anyway. But the true wonder of this image comes halfway through the film when Françoise and Richard visit the beach at night. Not only are black levels perfect, but the glow of the plankton in the ocean in chapter 14 is a sight to behold.


Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English and Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: While not a sonic experience in any way, The Beach sports a highly active 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. The front soundstage is constantly active and dialogue sounds natural. The surrounds are used lightly to create ambiance, but when needed they come alive—be it the sounds of Bangkok in chapter one, a waterfall in chapter 9 or even the shark attack in chapter 15—this soundtrack delivers. A Dolby 2.0 surround track is also provided in English and French.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish and English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
10 TV Spots/Teasers
9 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
1 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Danny Boyle
Packaging: Alpha
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. "Pure Shores" music video by All Saints
  2. 30 second soundtrack promo
Extras Review: While The Beach is not as jam-packed as previous Fox special editions such as ID4 or Fight Club, it is still a fairly feature laden disc.

Director Danny Boyle's Commentary:
While not exactly informative, Boyle does have a very casual, pleasing way of talking about the film that makes listening to him entertaining. For instance, did you know that glowing plankton don't pick up well on camera? My one complaint with the track is that I wish novelist Alex Garland had been able to join Boyle; now that would have been great.

Deleted Scenes
Nine deleted scenes are available in non-anamorphic widescreen for your viewing pleasure. Like most deleted scenes the majority offered here are clips that are not vital to the film. One clip featuring Canet is a scene I feel deserved to be in the film. An alternate ending and original opening are also offered. While the original opening does not differ much from the one used, the alternate ending is a better scene than the one that remains in the theatrical version.

Storyboards
A collection of storyboards is offered for key scenes in the film. While not a bad selection, I would have liked to have seen a film to storyboard comparison.

Featurette (05m:38s)
What is offered is nothing more than an extended trailer with a few interviews spread throughout. Watch this after the film as it does give away some of the best scenes.

Music Video and Promo
Presented in full frame 2.0 stereo is a song by a band, All Saints, that was before to me unknown. The title of the song is Pure Shores, and is worth a listen if you are into bubblegum pop. Also included is a 30-second All Saints-heavy soundtrack promo.

Trailers, TV Spots, and Cast and Crew Bios
There are no less than 4 trailers and 10 TV spots provided on the disc. Starting with a teaser that I saw before Star Wars last May all the way to both a U.S. trailer and an international trailer. The 10 TV spots included aired heavily on MTV last February, and are more or less shorter cuts of the trailers. A fairly extensive cast and crew bio section is provided with information on most of the actors as well as most of the crew.

Subtitles:
Subtitles in Spanish and English are available, particularly uselful for scenes with Robert Caryle!

ETC....
The disc starts with a 2-1/2 minute Dolby Digital promo for Fox DVD. I remember that a little over a year ago I despised Fox for their high prices and bare bones discs. Oh, how times have changed. The spot features everything from Fight Club to X-Men to Bedazzled. It can be skipped by advancing with the chapter button on your remote.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments


My film teacher once told me that a film has to have at least three memorable moments to be considered a good film. Well Mr. Murray, The Beach has one. While I unfortunately cannot recommend the film, I do recommend this DVD as well as the book with enthusiasm. The Beach might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I do know some who liked it. Rent it, and decide for yourself.

 


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