The Beach


(2000) ★★

Sky Movies Select: Wednesday 1 July, 8pm

Seeking adrenalin-rush adventure in Thailand, backpacker Leonardo DiCaprio is lured by the forbidden promise of a secret beach on an inaccessible island. Paradise turns out to be hell on earth, of course. The blue lagoon community of hedonistic drop-outs is led by outwardly benign fascist Tilda Swinton, and DiCaprio isn’t the only one who goes off his trolley under the influence of the locally grown herbs. What’s so disappointing about Danny Boyle’s movie-most-ordinary is not just its lazy lifting of iconic moments from powerful Vietnam movies – going native from Apocalypse Now and Russian roulette from The Deer Hunter – but the blanket acceptance of backpack colonialism as a viable response to a hectic world. When the community leaves the island on a raft, they look just like rats deserting a sinking ship. Long before then the movie has drifted into the murky waters of unbridled melodrama, tending to provoke choked laughter rather than tension when, for instance, Guillaume Canet’s ‘saint’ Etienne waves a machette at DiCaprio while insisting upon standing aside for his girlfriend to get it on with Leo. Carefully choreographed to a soundtrack of pop songs, this desert island saga is not so much Lord of the Flies as Lord of the Dance. The real energy of the piece comes from Robert Carlyle’s typically demented turn as a suicidal survivor. But he’s not the focal point, alas. That’s DiCaprio, of course, and it’s not his fault that his callow character talks gibberish in the hopefully portentous voice-over narration. Nor that he wanders through a life-changing experience without learning one damn thing from it.

Certificate: 15

Duration: 115min