The Beach (2000)


Leonardo DiCaprio stars as an American tourist in Thailand who follows a secret map to an island where a small community has gone off the grid in an island paradise. Of course, all paradises are destined to become lost ones. Romantic jealousy, need for medical supplies, and armed marijuana growers pose threats to the Utopian society, which is led by one of its founders (Tilda Swinton). Eventually, living in the wild brings out the beast in them and they’re confronted with a decision to stay or leave.

I love the first half of The Beach for its pure escapist value. The island location and cinematography grant one of my persistent movie-going wishes — to transport us to another world. DiCaprio’s character is ostracized from the group in the last half, giving the actor the chance to go a little bonkers and demonstrate some acting chops. Swinton is memorable in a chameleon-esque role, and Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting) brings some dark humor to a few scenes as well.

I think a less plot-driven third act would have improved the movie. Much could have been made from one simple moral dilemma rather than a trifecta, and would have been more in-line with the rest of the film’s streamlined story progression. But The Beach is another fine feather in the eclectic cap of director Danny Boyle (Sunshine, 28 Days Later), who by my estimation hasn’t made a bad movie yet.

Based on a book by Alex Garland.

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