The Beach was released in the year 2000 and was directed by Danny Boyle, of Trainspotting fame. It is a film about a young man named Richard who we find in Thailand, where is vacationing. He is surprised by how many people go on vacation, but only end up doing what they would do at home, such as watch television or sit around in bars. He craves adventure and excitement, finding them in his hotel room neighbor, a man named Daffy.
Daffy gives Richard a map that leads to a fabled beach on an island paradise off the coast of Thailand. Among its other majestic qualities, the island supposedly features fields of marijuana. Richard takes the map and leaves with two other people, a young French couple, to find the island. They find it sure enough, and discover a group of people operating something resembling a hippie commune, where work is divided up and all food and resources are shared.
The setting of the film is gorgeous, taking place on a tropical island with great white sand and blue water. We, as the viewers, are immersed in the exotic beauty of this place and definitely want to join the inhabitants on this paradise. The other primary setting of the film, Bangkok, Thailand, is made to appear like a tourist-ridden and undesirable place with cheap hotels and sleazy tourist bars.
You might be surprised to discover that everyone on the cast is a virtual unknown except for Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays the role of Richard. Despite the lack of well known faces, the acting is pretty good all around, although most of the air time is shared equally by the group of islanders. DiCaprio plays the role of Richard with vigor and excitement, even taking on a creepy edge towards the end. Overall, I thought his acting was good, but at times felt a bit shallow. I was not terribly impressed by the other actors, although I thought Guillaume Canet did a good job of showing emotion and compassion in the role.
The music in the film was all modern, with a lot of electronic and little known music. One of my favorite usages of music was when Richard first sees the beach and we hear Moby's Porcelain" playing in the background. I did not find the other songs to be as memorable, but they served their purpose.
Boyle does not employ any revolutionary camera technique here and all of his camera angles are pretty conservative. The one scene where I was impressed was when he used special effects to make it appear as though Richard was in a video game. There were also some good panning shots showing Bangkok and the commune that help to give the viewer some perspective.
Overall, I thought this movie was very enjoyable, but not a must-see film. It has a lot to say about tourism and people's desire for freedom from responsibility, but it is not a terribly important film. Some parts of the movie are a bit disturbing, but it is probably something you could let your teenager see.