Twenty-something Richard travels to Thailand and finds himself in possession of a strange map. Rumours state that it leads to a solitary beach paradise, a tropical bliss - excited and intrigued, he sets out to find it.
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Garland's novel centers on a young nicotine-addicted traveler named Richard, an avid pop-culture buff with a particular love for video games and Vietnam War movies. While at a hotel in Bangkok, he finds a map left by his strange, whacked-out neighbor, who just committed suicide. The map supposedly leads to a legendary island paradise where some other wayward souls have settled. Written by
Mike Arndt <email@example.com>
Two of the beaches (Ko Phi Phi Leh and Phuket in Thailand) where this was filmed were affected by the Indian Ocean Tsunami on 26 December 2004. See more »
The tattoo on Richard's arm disappears in several shots after the tattoo is given. It's there, then gone, then reappears. See more »
My name is Richard. So what else do you need to know? Stuff about my family, or where I'm from? None of that matters. Not once you cross the ocean and cut yourself loose, looking for something more beautiful, something more exciting and yes, I admit, something more dangerous. So after eighteen hours in the back of an airplane, three dumb movies, two plastic meals, six beers and absolutely no sleep, I finally touch down; in Bangkok.
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Looks good but is a little hollow when it comes down to it
American back packer Richard is one of millions of travellers all looking for an unique experience. When in Bangkok he meets the slightly deranged Daffy who leaves him with stories and a map to a beach on a remote island that can't be seen from the sea. Taking with him 2 French travellers, Richard sets out to reach the island and finds it inhabited by a mix of people living as a small ideallic community. However internal conflicts rise up with their arrival and a copy of the map that he gave to some friends threaten to expose the paradise community for it's darker roots.
While I know that the critics were a little hard on this film when it came out, my main reason for not going to see it was a feeling of total apathy towards it. I wasn't interested in the story, have never read the book and didn't feel I had to see it because of either the big name star or the famous British team behind it. On television (for free) though, is a different matter and I gave it a go. Firstly the film does look great; I know there are tales of environmental damage to the area but it does look like paradise and is very lush. Director Boyle's direction is visually good too whether it be drawing style from scenes or contrasting the city with the island or doing imaginative things like computer game style images, he does work well.
The plot is good on paper but isn't as well brought through. Richard's journey and initial settling into the island is involving and interesting but the main plot is really in the second half which is also where it becomes a weaker film. The film clearly is building into a teenage Hearts of Darkness type story where the DIY civilisation leads to cruelty and madness this aim can be seen in an early scene where tourists sit watching Apocalypse Now in a waiting area. However his descent into madness is less well done and less convincing than Brando's. It all happens to quickly and, although with brutal consequences, it really needed to be seen to be more of a gradual distancing from the norm rather than a sudden leap into an abyss.
DiCaprio is not an actor that I particularly like or enjoy to watch but he is pretty good here. The fact that this film did as well as it did (in terms of box office) is probably mostly down to his star power, but he also gives a good performance. His madness is well portrayed and it's not his fault the film requires him to suddenly switch the way he does. Swinton is better as Sal, her `madness' is more subtle and is continual rather than sudden. The mix of multinational unknowns in the support roles are all good even if, with so many good looking young people, it does feel a little like a music video shoot at times.
Overall I enjoyed the film even if it never got as involving as I hoped it would. The story lacks punch and point a fact that can be seen in a very weak ending which was a real wash out in my opinion but it is still good enough to watch once. The whole thing looks great and DiCaprio's star power and charisma helps keep the audience with him, it's just that the actual story doesn't quite have the rich feeling or depth that the tourist-film location does.
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