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Nightmares are very personal things. Probably because I was in the military
at a time when nuclear war seemed more probable than it does now I
occasionally had nightmares involving nuclear weapons - the end of all
things I hold dear. Regardless of what that says about me, it is a problem
that has not been resolved with the end of the Cold War.
I had read some negative reviews about Showtime's remake of the classic picture, so I wasn't sure it was worth watching. That was a mistake as large as the one that frames "On the Beach." This version far surpasses the original in presentation, depth of character, and, of course, effects.
Quite simply, "On the Beach" is the story of the crew of the last surviving American submarine, an Australian Naval officer, and that officer's wife and friends. A nuclear holocaust has created a cloud of radioactive dust that destroyed all life in the Northern hemisphere and is gradually making its way south. Worse, the Australian survivors have a good idea of when the radioactivity will arrive and kill them. When it does, humanity, and presumably most other life, will vanish from the planet. We may as well not have existed.
I've felt up until now that the 1959 classic with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner was the most depressing film ever made. However, director Russell Mulcahy and an excellent cast including Armande Assante, Rachel Ward, and Grant Bowler make the 1959 version seem stilted and pale by comparison. This remake - perhaps reinterpretation is a better word - gives the characters a depth that now seems missing in the original film. Commander Towers displays an increasing disorientation as the film progresses. Moira has more to her character than that of a lush. And Lt. Holmes is clearly not happy about the time spent away from his wife who, in this version, better illuminates her increasing disconnection from the real world.
Still, I find one thing missing from both films. Dylan Thomas exhorted us not to go gently into that good night. Yet Australians and Americans - at least those in Alaska - seem to have no trouble taking suicide pills (with injections for pets and children - seems like it should have been the other way around.) There is a great ethical issue in taking the pills and injections that is not explored in either version, and yet what deserves more ethical and moral debate than whether it is human, in the best sense of the term, to slip silently and uncomplainingly from life? Aside from the insanity of humanity eliminating all higher life on the planet, this lack of exploration of ethical issues is the point that most bothered me about "On the Beach."
I've not read the book so I can't comment on which picture is closer to it. I will say that I think the ending of the newer version seemed at odds with Towers' character - perhaps it was merely a fantasy of Moira while she was dying, or perhaps a critical scene was deleted for timing. I hope it was not just the tendency of modern film makers to sweeten the ending! The earlier movie is much more consistent with Dwight Power's character.
So. This is a movie well worth three hours of your life. Aside from occasional histrionics from Julian Osborne in both versions, it presents people going about their lives as best they can. You are left to decide the meaning behind it, as we always are as individuals. There are no simple answers here, and even the questions the movie raises aren't simple.
The movie will leave you depressed. That shows you're thinking. Perhaps there's no solution to the conundrum of stellar forces, chemicals, and biologics available as weapons. Some serious thinkers have postulated that the reason we don't receive any radio signals from others in the galaxy is that civilizations reach a certain level, and then, when they have learned to unleash powers far above what evolution trained them to comprehend, destroy themselves.
It's a serious thought and a serious movie. I recommend it highly. A solid 9+ from me.
I saw 'On the Beach' on tv about 2 years ago now and I still have nightmares
inspired by it.
Bryan Brown, Rachel Ward, Armand Assante and Jacqueline Mckenzie are all
credible actors in their own right and they all give fine performances. The
film focuses around these people who come together in Australia after a
world nuclear war through various predictable plot devices (see plot
The acting, direction and even the script don't really make an impact but it
is the topic that hits home. I think the purpose of this remake is to
remind the world of the horrible results of any nuclear war that could so
easily take place. As an Australian, watching this is even more horrific
perhaps because this is a rare movie where the world's end is focused
outside the U.S.A for a change.
Watch this horrific movie (really it is mini series) if you aren't scared by
the "what might happen" scenario then frankly your head is in the sand.
10/10 for being a very welcome piece of anti nuclear propaganda.
One can't help but compare this to the 1959 version and it stands up pretty
well. At least there are Aussies portraying Aussies. Heck, there's even
Aussies portraying Americans, some sort of indication of how advanced the
Australian film industry has come since those far off days of the
I found this tv-movie more watchable than I first suspected it would be. Being Australian and made for tv I knew that there would be a very high romance factor to secure the female half of the viewing audience. And I was not disappointed in this presumption. Love interest was there in spades. True love in the form of the Holmes family, new love between Moira and Captain Towers the US sub commander, lost love between Moira and Professor Osborn (real-life married couple Rachel Ward and Brian Brown), and a more masculine love between Towers and his crew.
The expedition to Alaska to investigate the mysterious message was handled well, as was each aspect in general. From the breakdown of society, to the pathos of seeing the portrayal of the end of humanity. All assisted by clear camera-work, excellent sets, competent acting (in the case of Armand Assante as Towers bordering on the very good) and a competent presentation of the "message" of nuclear doom.
I note in some of the other comments here a technical question about nuclear warheads on the submarine. The most obvious goof I noticed in the movie was that there should have been no need for people to have resorted to horse and pedal power so soon. Australia being self-sufficient in crude oil and possessing refineries. This was probably not the case when Neville Shute wrote the novel in the '50's. That is just one of my own little observations.
All in all a very watchable made for tv movie, even tho it be one that put a downer on the rest of my evening.
What would I do when I was confronted with my certain death and the end of
mankind? That question was getting more and more to me when I watched On
Beach. Very confronting and on the eve of a war in Iraq, not at all
The plot is simple: War has broke out (in this case between the US and China, but it could be Iraq or North-Korea too...) and the US strikes with nuclear weapons. Australia gets spared initially, but its inhabitants face certain death as clouds of radio active fall-out nears. Within two months, no one human will be alive. Unless... There is a chance that some people close to the north pole survived. An American nuclear submarine that survived the war is boarded by an Aussie liaison officer and a cynical scientist, that used to date the sister-in-law of the officer, to search for possible survivors.
Not much action, but for those who like to think while watching a movie, this film will stick to you. There are story lines that resemble soap opera's. That might be true on the surface, but it is completely different when you keep in mind that they all are going to die. You feel the difficulties in the way the characters choose to die.
The movie is played well, directed well and has great photography. The director uses several filming techniques that are rarely used so that the viewer gets time to think about the situation and feel the dilemma of the character.
Unless you cannot bear to be confronted with your own mortality, this is a must-see.
I found this movie depressing as hell. But I also found it haunting. I thought the acting and direction were really superb. And, by the way, I saw the original with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. If anyone thinks a remake can't approach the original in style and quality, you will change your mind when you see THIS remake. The other thought that you will mull over in your mind, as with the original, is how human beings could be so monumentally stupid as to allow this to happen. I came away from this movie with the same sensation I had after I saw the movie The Day After. Other than a few references to the nuclear war that got the cast of characters into this dilemma, the movie did not dwell on nuclear war--only the aftermath. The aftermath of such folly is what the movie DID dwell on and how a species, namely homo sapiens, become extinct. What stands out in this movie is HOW they die. Each character or couple ending their lives in their own way and on their own terms. This movie remake is a must see...
A little on the long side, but the impact builds to a heartbreaking finale. Rachel Ward is spectacular as the boozy spurned woman played by Ava Gardner in the original 1959 film. This film has more emotional depth and the characters are more believably human than in that classic anti-nuclear film. However, without the Cold War raging the premise seems more imaginary than it did then, when nuclear war was an all too plausible scenario. But that puts the dramatic focus on the human story rather than the propaganda. It made me choke up a few times (but I am a softie about these things).
The original version of ON THE BEACH has always been one of my favorite movies and I was very sceptical when I heard there was a remake, a TV version at that. In fact, the new version was so superior to the original that it took my breath away. All of the updates (like adding email and electronic broadcasting) were perfect. Also, all of the Australian characters were played by Australians (even as a kid I wondered why all the Australian characters in the original had American accents!) - except for Rachel Ward who's British but close enough. The casting was brilliant except for Armand Assante as the Sub Commander (not to mention him being about 4 inches shorter than his love interest, Rachel Ward). This role called for a Harrison Ford, or (young) Robert Mitchum or Gregory Peck type - it was the only sour note for me in the whole movie. I also don't think as many people would opt out they way they did - I think most of us will hang on to life until the bitter end - just as most terminally ill people do.
Even writing the most basic mention of On the Beach's plot involves
spoilers, so I've checked the spoiler radio button and will proceed to
discuss the film with minimal reservation. I won't give away the
On the Beach is based on the mid-20th century novel of the same name by Neville Shute, and offers a more elaborate and engrossing treatment of its subject than the original classic film (1959) starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Fred Astaire. This Showtime original is an hour longer than its predecessor, and will likely bore some of the more impatient members of its audience. Unlike most contemporary sci-fi, this is no action film, but a sombre, depressing, examination of the self-destruction of the human race through nuclear war.
Never over-the-top, alarmist, or politically biased, On the Beach simply presents the stark reality of its premise, and uses finely developed characters to give context, shape and meaning, to the experience. the cast is easily equal to its predecessor, with Armand Assante and Rachel Ward particularly illuminating their roles.
Assante plays an American nuclear submarine commander who has outrun the nuclear fall out and managed to surface near Australia, as that continent prepares to experience the first effects of the radiation now permeating earth's atmosphere. All around, people are preparing to die. The most sought after commodity is a do-it-yourself family suicide kit. Immediately enlisted by the Australian government to carry out a top-secret mission to investigate an IP signal coming from Anchorage Alaska, Assante is assigned an Australian military liaison (Grant Bowler) and a scientist (Bryan Brown)and asked to turn his boat around in search of humanity's last hope. In his few days on land before this fateful journey, Assante befriends his liaison's family, developing a special affinity for his sister-in-law, the playful Rachel Ward.
My plot summary takes us about 1/3rd of the way through the story, but sets up all the major elements of On the Beach.
Why does this film work so well? The cinematography is good, but not excellent. The direction is excellent and the cast is exceptionally good. But more than anything else, On the Beach makes its point because the script and story are deeply humanized by the complex and bold characterizations. The characters have interesting back-stories and deal with their harrowing predicament in very different ways. You not only feel as if you know these people, but you like them and sympathize with them - even the more despicable characters.
This is a great piece of classic science fiction, recommended to all, but those with a limited attention span should opt for the 1959 version instead.
DISCLAIMER: Text contains hints with regard to the ending of this movie. -----------------
I came to this movie accidentally. I never read the book, nor did I knew that there was an earlier version of it.
I was temporariliy working far away from home, when late one evening I zapped through my english tv channels and I saw something about a submarine. As I enjoyed the hunt for "Red October" and "Crimson Tide" a lot, and submarines are always of interest, I took a closer look - and found that what I saw was kind of boring. Too much relationship-blabla, too much "feelings" than I wanted to see at that time. (I am not that type of person who only watches Action-movies all the time, but what I saw really bored me at that time.)
As the other channels did not offer too favourable alternatives, I had a look from time to time into that "submarine-movie", and I wondered about the combination of this feelings-and-relationship-stuff with a submarine ?!? Every time I stayed a little bit longer and I learned more about the background and the plot, with the nuclear disaster. However - part 1 ended, and, at that time, the movie was of enough interest that I looked out for part 2 in the tv magazine.
I still had not too many details on the content of the movie when finally part 2 was on tv. I watched it from the beginning, and although there were some parts which really did not interest me too much (maybe because I never saw the complete developement of the characters), I could not resist to watch it to the end...
But what kind of end is this ? An american movie without an happy ending ? Mankind all dead ? This was too realistic, and it was surprisingly detailed. Where in this famous "1984" movie they had to change the end for some audience, this movie ending was the direct opposite of it, and I was not prepared for it in some way.
This was not the first time I was confronted with the nuclear theme and thinking about it, but I was unprepared for this direct, extreme and final ending that the movie had a kind of impact on me for almost a week. (And normally I am really not the type who is affected by movies that much!)
While writing this, the movie is repeated on tv and I see once again people drinking final drinks or racing with ferraris into death. And once again, I have this terrible feeling that all of this is too realistic.
Some people may be able to write about this movie only with regard to the performance of the actors, comparing with the book and the old version, or complaining about technical details. They may be right, but for me personally, this seems to be a kind of irrelevant compared to the content and the story of the movie. I consider that a bad movie could not have such an impact on the viewer, and I was glad to read that I am not the only one with this kind of experience.
I agree with most other comments, that as many people as possible should have a better understanding of the effects of nuclear warfare, and if this movie can be effective to increase this understanding, it is a good movie. Maybe people should watch it like me, not knowing too much about the ending and not taking too much care about single characters. Movies like this you should not just watch, but you must also think about.
Before switching now back to Cartoon Network, I am sending this little comment to IMDB and I start to wonder if I could mention this movie on my website...
I saw this movie across two nights on television.
I found that the first half dragged quite a bit with too much time spent on setting up the love triangle.
However, I found the ending really affecting and quite emotional. To put not too fine a point on it I was a little sleepless last night thinking about it. The acting in the ending is really quite good.
I also think that for its interesting premise - what would happen to society in its possible final dies - this film doesn't go into much detail. I would have thought that there would be lots of interesting things to would happen.
I think the stand out actors here are Jacqueline McKenzie (Mary Holmes) and Bryan Brown (Julian Osborne). They conveyed the emotion of their characters very well. I was quite disappointed with Armand Assante (Dwight Towers) as he didn't seem to have much of an emotional range.
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