Beyond Rangoon (1995) Poster

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10/10
Underrated picture
amolad6 March 2001
This is one of the most underrated movies of the 1990s. If you allow yourself to identify with the Patricia Arquette character, you will find it to be a very moving story of a woman regaining a sense of purpose to her life, and finding a new will to live.

Arquette's performance is brave because it is purposefully "wooden" -- it's a way of defining her character's spiritual death, her complete lack of a desire to be alive. She moves through life like a zombie because her family has been murdered and she can't see the point of living. What is moving is how in the course of the story, she is reawakened -- by the Burmese landscape, by the beautiful quality of its people and landscapes, and by the primal choices she is forced to confront.

Boorman supports this visually (and Hans Zimmer supports it with one of his most gorgeous, haunting scores) with an often static camera and with a propensity to shoot through glass, windows, windshields, etc. We are on the outside looking in, just like Arquette.... until she finds herself deep in the jungle and is forced to choose whether or not to fight for her life.

I recommend the 1954 movie THE PURPLE PLAIN as well. It's a similar story in a similar setting, and makes for a fascinating comparison.
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Powerful and inspiring
constancedm19 December 2003
I first saw Beyond Rangoon years ago, and my interest in South East Asia has kept growing ever since.

Laura's husband and son have just been murdered. Seeing her sink into depression, her sister takes her on a tour of Burma hoping the change will somehow get her back on track. Due to a thoughtless mistake Laura finds herself trapped in the country on her own, finding herself face to face with the exactions of the military dictatorship. She meets an old professor who becomes her only way out of the country. During their escape through the Burmese jungle, tracked by the military, Laura finds herself forced to fight her way back into life. She gradually lets go of her own pain to focus on the country's wounds. And I just love the ending, it's a wise one.

I'd like to answer some other reviewers' comments: Laura is MEANT to be in that comatose don't-give-a-damn state. Arquette's interpretation is spot on. That's the sort of state I'd be in if I had seen the people I cherish the most lying in a pool of blood on my living room floor. This is what makes her wander out of the safety of the US Embassy even though as an intelligent woman she's bound to sense the danger of doing this. What's happened to her has made her almost suicidal, "I was stone myself".

The film is well paced, the acting is good, and the scenery is beautiful. Intense and food for thought, this film will be haunting you for days. That's an 8/10.

So what is Columbia waiting for to release it on DVD ??
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8/10
An Underrated Film that Has not Aged with Top-Notch Performance of the Gorgeous Patricia Arquette
claudio_carvalho21 January 2012
In the 90's, the American doctor Laura Bowman (Patricia Arquette) travels to Burma (presently Myanmar) with her sister and also doctor Andy Bowman (Frances McDormand) to recover from the loss of her beloved husband and son that were murdered in a theft at home. Laura sees a political pro-democracy manifestation to support the leader Aung San Suu Kyi and she decides to participate; however she loses her passport and she is not allowed to leave Rangoon.

While waiting to have another flight, Laura meets the unofficial tourist guide U Aung Ko, who is also a leader of an underground movement, and she decides to visit the countryside of Burma. However, the military dictatorship represses the movement and Laura, U Aung Ko and several civilians try to escape to Thailand in a dangerous journey.

"Beyond Rangoon" is an underrated film that has not aged, with top-notch performance of the gorgeous Patricia Arquette, I saw this film twice on VHS in the 90's and it is amazing that the military dictatorship still does exist in this country.

In accordance with the statement of John Boorman in the Extras of the DVD, the dramatic scene when the commander orders to shoot the politician Aung San Suu Kyi did really happen. Aung San Suu Kyi won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and shamefully was only released from house arrest on 13 November 2010. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Muito Além de Rangum" ("Far Beyond Rangoon")
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7/10
Inspiring
QueenMag13 November 1998
Patricia Arquette plays American doctor Laura Bowman, who takes a holiday to Burma in an attempt to heal her spirit after the murders of her husband and young son. She is left behind in Rangoon during a military crackdown and leaves the city with an aging man who works as a "tour guide." But he is no simple tour guide; he is a professor who introduces her to the life outside of the tourist traps ... the two of them get caught up in the political upheaval and Laura sees with her own eyes how the government betrays and oppresses its own people.

This movie is one of my favorites because of its themes. First, it's informational (describing some of the injustices that are occurring in Burma). Secondly, it's about a woman's struggle to find meaning in life after an incredible loss. Thirdly, it's about compassion and sacrifice, and people coming together - without even knowing each other - to endure pain and fear.

Just about every beautiful scene in this movie is important; nothing is wasted here. It's an earnest and moving film. There is also a very emotional score composed by Hans Zimmer which complements scenes nicely.

A definite recommend, especially to people concerned with human rights ... and people who want to know, "What purpose can I serve?"
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10/10
Patricia's Best Movie
Tigre-28 January 1999
Never had I seen such a powerful true story movie. I discovered a city, a country, a lost revolution and even a Nobel prize winner thanks to this masterpiece of cinema.

If you haven't seen this movie, you can't say you've seen anything .

A great lesson of courage, humility and life.

I haven't seen anything as good since.

T.E. Saturday, January 9th, 1999
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8/10
terrifying political thriller
steve.schonberger15 December 1999
This movie was working toward two goals: to make a political point and to tell a scary adventure story. It's often difficult to do make a political point and still tell a good story (consider the highly political but rarely-entertaining final season of Ellen). Beyond Rangoon finds a good balance between politics and storytelling.

I already knew that Aung San Suu Kyi had won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, and knew something about the oppressive political situation in Burma, so the political message of the movie was mostly a dramatization of what I already knew. But I thought the movie did a good job of telling about Aung San Suu Kyi and the mostly-faceless dictators who have for years tried to silence her. The device of presenting an unfamiliar setting through the eyes of a character that viewers can identify with is fairly common, but it's quite well done in this movie.

Of course, the real measure of the movie was its entertainment value. Arquette was excellent as a young woman whose sister took her to a distant, unfamiliar place to shake her out of her depression over the violent deaths of her husband and son. She is convincingly detached and depressed. Her grieving condition gives her a clear reason for her distracted wanderings into the thick of a dangerous situation she does not understand, something she'd otherwise be much too intelligent to stumble into.

Once the dangers become so obvious that she can see through them even through the cloud of grief, she's trapped, with no easy escape. That sets her on a path of adventure where she needs her intelligence to survive. The writers deserve much credit for making her intelligent and resourceful enough to deal with numerous dangerous situations, while still finding a plausible reason for her to be foolish enough to get into trouble in the first place. The directing is strong also, keeping up the tension throughout the race to escape the forces of the dictatorship.

This movie had additional impact on me and my wife because of other events of the same time period. We were preparing for a trip to India, and heard news reports of Western tourists who had been taken hostage by a terrorist group in India. Avoiding isolated terrorists in a peaceful democratic country is quite a different matter from escaping an oppressive dictatorship. But the movie and the news shared the element of avoiding danger in an unfamiliar country. That common characteristic gave the movie meaning beyond the strength of its own skillful storytelling. The movie illustrates the international tourist's worst nightmare.
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10/10
Powerful
russ-patterson4 September 2006
This film should be seen by as many people as possible as it concentrates on the human rights problems in Burma. When I first watched this film in the mid 1990's it totally changed my life. I knew very little about Aung San Suu Kyi or her democracy movement. It effected me so I wanted to understand more about the situation. Any film that has the power to make you want to learn more has done its job properly. Patricia Arquette is superb as the American lady who due to personal tragedy has become reckless with her own life decisions and gets caught up in the ensuing conflict. It is a powerful film about a subject matter which deserves more publicity. As the film itself says the 1988 massacre of Pro democracy activists was not televised and therefore largely went unnoticed to the world. I implore everyone reading these comments to take the time to find out more about the current plight of the Burmese people.

It is about time this film was released on DVD. Can anything be done?
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8/10
Attempts to inform the public about truths in non-democracy.
UZZIAH22 August 1999
While the movie has its flaws, it brings to light some of the problems that come with living in a country that has no democracy. It makes you empathize with the people under such a government and makes you want to learn more about their lives, their struggles and a potential leader Aung San Suu Kyi. It makes one wonder why our government will interfere places we are not wanted yet ignore those who ask our help.
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A touch of the exotic east
kpyatt20 February 2000
"The trip was Andy's idea. It was easier to say 'Yes' than argue. Always that way with my sister. She meant well. A touch of the exotic east would take me away from everything that reminded me of what had happened..."

So begins the film "Beyond Rangoon", about an emotionally troubled American who is urged by her sister to take a vacation in Rangoon, Burma to try and get over the devastating loss of her husband and child. While there, she becomes entertwined in very real political upheavel. The film depicts the marches and rallies and protests realistically, and shows massacres that are hard to watch, but need to be heard. The political upheavals that really happened in Burma in 1988 were never heard or talked about in the US, and needed to be. Aung San Su Kyi was a woman who was trying to bring Burma (Now Myanmar) to democracy, but was denied by the government. She still tried to lead her people to freedom, and the struggle still exists today. The film has powerful writing, directing, cinematography and acting. The absolutely chilling and powerful score by Hans Zimmer lends riveting power to each scene, and fills triumphant moments with triumph. Patricia Arquette portrays the American, Laura Bowman, with depth, very frozen by the horrors of her loss, "I tried finding something in those stone statues, but nothing stirred in me. I was stone myself", but slowly she sees the meaning of her life and others in her journeys throughout Rangoon and beyond. A terrific film. And it needs to be watched. At home, and in history or government classes. **** stars.
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10/10
Wonderful work by ARQUETTE as usual...where is the DVD???
spiderman_iceman_andfire19 August 2005
"Beyond Rangoon" is simply marvelous. From the traumatic opening to the uplifting ending, you will be amazed at how well put together this film is. Patricia Arquette amazingly portrays Laura Bowman, who we meet as a shut-down and quit despondent young doctor, unable to deal with her grief over the loss of her husband and son. Throughout the course of the film, as she is trapped in Burma, witnesses the Democratic uprise and massacres in the capital city of Rangoon, flees for her life, and saves her tour-guide's (U Aung Ko's) life, she is regaining her will to live. This may seen contrived or heavy handed: it is not. John Boorman, a master at spiritual and emotional conflict, paints the film with broad strokes, and often uses symbolism to capture Laura's emotional state, and physical predicament. Patricia Arquette, as usual, gives a wonderfully convincingly and believable performance as the emotionally wounded Laura. What Arquette does amazingly, in any role that she plays, is give us a window into her character's heart without words. Every time she is given a close up in the film, the audience is given insight into her character. She does not need to speak to convey emotions, or be over the top. Some critics were harsh on Arquette's performance in the film when it opened on August 25, 1995, deeming that she was "flat" or "dull" in the role. I found her characterization dead-on, staying well away from the melodramatics that typically are part of an actor's performance when having a personally tragedy take place. She is on shock and is reserved about her feelings: that is just as normal as screaming lashing out at those around you. I am hoping that Warner Brothers releases this title on DVD very soon. With Arquette's hugely successful NBC drama" Medium" bringing her to household name status, not to mention an Emmy win and now 2007 nomination, it would be in the studio's best interest to do so. Hopefully there will be extras, with the alternate ending. Do not by pass by this film. It is one that you will certainly not forget after seeing.
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10/10
A great, absorbing, hauntingly beautiful and exciting film. A perfect 10, and Patricia Arquette is great!
mwa-214 January 1999
Beyond Rangoon is one of the most emotional and intense films ever made. Superbly directed by John Boorman, and intensly acted by Patricia Arquette, this film can easily be called one of the best films of the 90's. The story and vivid characters just grab the audience from the very opening, and never lets go. After seeing the film, the viewer will never be able to forget "Beyond Rangoon". The film made little money at the box office, and is little known, but should be high profile. Watching it, you can tell that it was meant to be seen by a large audience. It is a very important and moving film, and should be seen by everyone.
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A Story of the Brave
thinkbach15 December 2001
John Boorman, I like your movies. Your movies are cerebral, but do not rely on symbolism or language to convey thought. They seem to rely on emotions, sometimes clichéd (not always a bad thing, and you do handle it well, in that your people say what one would expect a person to really say in that situation, even if it has that feel of a cliché), and lots of water and green vegetation, mud, earth, breath in the cold, dragon's breath, stuff like that.

Your films remind me of David Lean and David Attenborough, which makes sense, but, as you would probably agree, more dreamy.

A possible misgiving is an expectation set up with your stuff that right away tips me in a certain direction, and takes away possible surprise.

Not so with Beyond Rangoon, which I found was beyond the others you have done that I am most familiar with (Emerald Forest, which I need to see again, and Excalibur).

Beyond Rangoon is the story of one woman set against the backdrop of events in Myanmar (Burma). The story makes no attempt to give us a comprehensive picture of those events, just an introduction, but it is a solid introduction. I feel I know a lot more, and I have a sense of connection with those people that I did not have before, however tenuous from my place of privilege.

Overall I found the story moving and filled with meaning. I always like Patricia Arquette, and her leading man in this film is just great. Actually, she's the lead in this film, and that is what is great.

So much of the film is told with film language, that is, images, that I can see some critics being a little impatient with it, but it is probably because they overanalyze and find it fearful to feel anything too deeply.

Anyone out there wondering if this movie is worth it should watch it to find out. It will not be a waste of your time, whether you like it or not.
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5/10
Very ordinary
=G=29 October 2002
"Beyond Rangoon" is mostly a petite, robust Arquette running barefoot all over Burma from the military junta bad guys while trying desperately to help a wounded super good guy professor. The film mechanically tells its by-the-numbers story about a recently widowed American physician on vacation who gets stuck in the traveler's favorite vacation spot, Burma (yeah, right!), in the midst of a clash between restless citizens and the ruling military junta. The result is very ordinary stuff for Arquette fans, people with an interest in the Burma, and couch potatoes who dig flicks with strong women heros. (C)
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5/10
Not good enough for a Boorman movie
Haplo-417 March 1999
This is the worst of Boorman's movies I have seen. Boorman is a fine actor and has made many great movies - like "Excalibur" and "Hope and Glory" but this is a total failure. Why? First: The "blue-screen" shooting is terrible with many darklines still left around the actors, this is most visible when they are on the raft in the river. Second: The movie is too short. This movie is only 1h 35min and that is too short for a movie of this kind. Because of its shortness it fails where movies like "Killing fields" and "Salvador" triumphs. It is impossible to "unite" with the actors and actresses world in so short a time and therefor one only looks at this movie and don't feel anything about the horrors that it is supposed to make you upset about. But there is at least one thing good about this movie and that is the performance of Arquette - very convincing and colorfully done, but why didn't you give her an other half hour to give us more depth? Therefore I can't recommend this movie - insteed I advise you to watch Killing Fields by Roland Joffe or Salvador by Oliver Stone or watch another of Boorman's movies.
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3/10
More like Beyond Belief or How to be a Politically Correct American Tourist in Asia
rbrb28 July 2000
American Tourist on package tour in Asia suffering recent bereavement decides to break law by: 1 Ignoring curfew; 2 Joining revolutionary army; 3 Possessing and using illegal firearm...... etc etc What is meant to be a political and educational statement about the so called atrocities of a military dictatorship in Asia ends up as a "How To" travel guide for disillusioned Americans....especially those who wish to protest that the water in the hotel does not work.... Regrettably the authors of this silly yarn have no clue about Asia...nor it seems in writing sensible dialogue... example:...our human-rights heroine searching desperately for medicine in the furthest outreaches of the Asian jungle miles from anywhere comes across a peasant and asks: "Excuse me-does this town have a pharmacy?"...Well....those who know something about the Asian jungle will appreciate how ludicrous that scenario really is.... Mind you I was recently in the Thai jungle and an American asked me.... "excuse me....do you know where is MacDonalds?" This movie is meant to be a serious drama but ends up as a parody and rip-off of all those "killing fields" type of films designed to confirm tha Asian stereotype held by much of western "civilization" and re-inforced by Hollywood Fantasies such as this..... The basic message of this picture is: "we Americans...coming from the worlds only true democracy have a divine right to go to all other nations...and put right their wrongs.....screw-up their environment....and teach them about freedom....." (see for example The Beach......at least Leo did it with a bit more style)....of course Vietnam is another story.... And.....the educated Asian may well ask why the Yankie Gungh-Ho attitude about Asia should come from a nation whose main contribution to humanity has been helping to spread Cancer... Aids.. Gun carrying kiddies and Jerry Springer......et al.. At the end of this picture the cynical viewer may well be cheering for the Burmese Military..... 3 out of 10.
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2/10
The worst movie experience in my life
OlafMert24 September 2004
I am very surprised to see the good ratings for this movie.

I watched the film 9 years ago and I still remember how angry I felt to sit in the movie theatre and to look at this mess. I am a big fan of John Boorman's work. I really like his movies. So I went to "Beyond Rangoon" with big expectations. But I felt like watching a dumb, cheap Chuck Norris jungle movie with all action scenes cut out. Even the soundtrack was very annoying.

I can't believe that John Boorman was the director because this movie was so badly done. I think the Burmese people deserve better films to illustrate their struggle.
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2/10
Beyond Rangoon = Beyond Bad
kalashi19 April 1999
This hokey movie left me groaning after just about any exchange of dialogue or plot complication. Patricia Arquette, though pleasing to look at, gives a below par performance from her usual mediocrity. My friends and I have coined the phrase "Beyond Rangoon" to mean anything really bad. A lowpoint for Boorman.
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1/10
Without doubt John Boorman's worst film ever.
xmw671 April 2000
This film was sheer boredom from beginning to end. Ok, so i salute Boorman for raising the worldwide recognition of events in Burma, but that is all he achieves. About 10 minutes into the film i thought "oh no, here we go again", and i could have told you exactly what was going to occur in the next 80 minutes or so. Patricia Arquette was out of her depth in such a role, and her acting was wooden and unconvincing. Mind you, being saddled with such an awfully conventional script, maybe boredom set in, and was such reflected on the screen. A lot of the film was just plain laughable. At one stage, Arquette's elderly companion is shot, and he is prostrate on the ground. In the next scene, he is sprinting through the forest, obviously attempting to break the world 100 meters record! - or maybe he's just trying to run away from Boorman!!. If you find it hard to sleep one night then play Beyond Rangoon on your VCR and you'll be snoring in no time. I very rarely critisize a film as heavily as this, but in this case it is completely justified.
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8/10
Worth watching to see what happened in Burma
phd_travel26 March 2011
This is a well made movie and is exciting. An American tourist gets caught up in a Burmese democracy uprising.

Although filmed in Malaysia it has a good on location feel. Compared to "Cry Freedom" and "Killing Fields" it suffers a bit in credibility because it is a fictional story set in real life events as opposed to a totally true story. But because it is fiction it has a more of an intimate adventure feeling and you see things from her point of view. Patricia Arquette is good. She doesn't overact. The local cast is earnest and watchable.

In the light of recent uprisings in the Middle East it is quite relevant today.
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8/10
Not just another exhibition film inspired by actual events...
ringslady1987-117 January 2009
It was high time a movie about the situation in a largely ignored Asian country like Myanmar had to be made and Beyond Rangoon is Hollywood's answer. Initially I thought Hollywood would dramatize the events of the 8888 uprising and add in the traditionally Hollywood spice of Titanic-type love between the lead heroine and the Burmese male lead who happens to be an old man. Thankfully, nothing of that sort was in place - which may also explain why the film was not financially successful.

Anyway, the film was honest-to-God and I was glad at the accuracy of events portrayed. Apart from the fact that filming was done outside of Myanmar in Malaysia & Thailand and that I missed the exotic Burmese locales, I could not find much fault in the film.

You cannot blame the film for the desperation of the people and the resulting overwhelming actions. It is after all, real events of a civil war. The music by Hans Zimmer is definitely the USP of an otherwise adventurous tragedy for people who have no connection to it.

I was only a year old in Rangoon (now Yangon) during this tumultuous time. When I heard a movie was made on my real-life experience which I was too young to absorb, I had to get the DVD and needless to say, I could hardly have any complaints about it as it is an eye-opening wonder for me.
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10/10
Exciting, inspirational, and intensely moving
scif10022 April 2006
This is a great film in many different ways...perhaps the most important is that it introduces Western audiences to the remarkable, tragic story of Aung San Suu Kyi and her fight for freedom and democracy. Wonderful acting, gorgeous cinematography, breathtaking action and suspense: "Beyond Rangoon" has everything. I've seen this movie several times over the last ten years and each time it means more to me. Not everyone will like it (hence the relatively low rating on IMDb), but that's because it is not conventional Hollywood dumbtainment; rather, it challenges the viewer on several levels. I've never watched it without sobbing at the end and promising to live a more meaningful life.
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10/10
'Suffering is the only promise Life ever keeps' (U Aung Ko)
robert-temple-130 July 2010
This amazing film is probably the greatest triumph of John Boorman's long directing career. All the fire of his blazing courage and outrage are blended in this incredible portrayal of the dilemma of modern Burma. There is probably no military dictatorship anywhere in the world more brutal than that of Burma, which surpasses even the unlamented tyranny of Saddam Hussein for cruelty and sheer evil. It was like that when this film was made, and it is still like that now, 16 years later. Nothing has changed except that Aung San Suu Kyi is 16 years older. She is played delicately and to perfection in this film, in a brief and moving scene where she gracefully walks up to soldiers pointing rifles at her, brushes them aside, and passes on. In a sense, she is not just the Conscience of Burma but the current Conscience of the World. For she remains faithful to a cause which the world has heartlessly abandoned. Because there is no oil in Burma, it will not be invaded by the United States, Tony Blair will not go there with his pious platitudes and grin of a madman, BP will not ruin the coastline, and the arms industry must be content merely with selling guns for the population and 'rebels' to be murdered, not for invading troops to be opposed (what a pity there is less need for tanks and fighter planes, not to mention drones). Why is it that the Burmese population are so thoughtless that they allow themselves to be shot with simple rifle bullets, so that cannon shells are not required? The Burmese military really are bad customers, they kill on the cheap. But of course, like the Nazis, they get plenty of raping and torture in first, as what fun is it being a vicious brute if you cannot lord it over the people you are about to massacre before you do so? Even a Burmese soldier has his vanity. The most amazing performance in this film is by a Burmese man whose own name is the same as that of the character he plays, U Aung Ko. This is the only film in which he ever appeared, according to IMDb, so he was not an actor but 'a real person'. (Note: do real persons exist on screen outside of documentaries? This is an existential question for cinéastes.) In trying to find out more about this man, I googled the name and discovered that there is another U Aung Ko, actually U Aung Ko Win, also known as Saya Kyaung, who is closely connected with the present sinister regime, probably a relative but certainly not the same man as our hero in the film. Then I discovered that our hero lives in exile in Paris, having left Burma to live in France in 1975 (where he had previously studied at the Sorbonne), where he is married to a French woman, has assisted in the preparation of a documentary film about his country's plight, and works as a translator and language teacher. So that's who he is. The other lead in the film is Patricia Arquette, who gives a magnificently stalwart and powerful performance and clearly endured a great deal of physical hardship in doing so. The two of them work very well together and generate significant chemistry (not of the romantic kind but of the rarer kind based on understanding and friendship), which helps make the film such a spectacular success. Frances McDormand appears early in the film as Arquette's sister who has to leave her behind because she is forced to leave Burma with a tour group while Arquette is stranded while she waits for travel papers from the incompetent US Embassy. McDormand is, as usual, wonderful, but then she is one of our most admired actresses, who never disappoints. Arquette has been widowed and is recovering from intense grief, and as a result of her amazing adventures which ensue 'beyond Rangoon' when she gets out into the countryside (officially barred to foreigners), she finds a new meaning and value to life in helping others. Several of her companions are killed along the way. There are many excellent performances from young Burmese, or actors who play Burmese, since obviously this film could not be made in Burma (it was filmed in Malaysia and Thailand) and several of the players are really of diverse ethnic backgrounds. We see many horrible massacres and rampant violence and oppression taking place continually. Unfortunately, though many films with an axe to grind have tended to show these things for tendentious purposes, in this case I fear it is all too true. It does not appear that one can exaggerate on film any of the atrocities committed either by the Nazis of Germany or the Burmese military of today. This film really should be shown in schools. It is such a powerful lesson about the real world, so inspiring and horrifying at the same time. And yet those same parents who are content to let their kids sit around all day watching meaningless blood and gore on the screen with fictitious 'action heroes', and play computer games where everybody gets rewarded for killing other people (is that sick or what?), would doubtless complain because there are many grim real life situations portrayed here. Such is the 'hypocrisy of suburbia' into which real life rarely enters. We should all be giving copies of this film to all of our friends. And if the politicians were not all such thickos, they might even do something about the West's foreign policy.
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10/10
Beyond Rangoon is a wonderful story of two women's strength, and struggles
lynntulumello18 June 2005
I saw Beyond Rangoon about 20 times, it was THAT GOOD. At first when I watched it, I saw the story of Laura Bowman, but later, after multiple showings, I realised that this also was a parallel documentary. It came to be in my mind, a story about Aung San Suu Kyi, and the struggles of women to remain strong in the face of uncertainty, danger, and sadness. I also would put history, and politics on the list after further viewing, since I did learn a lot about Burma's past, and present, and could only guess at it's future. This movie is not only one you will want to see, it's also one you will definitely want to own a copy of. It's a movie that could easily been seen by the whole family, although not for children under thirteen. However, the educational benefits of this movie can not, and should not be understated.
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....because nothing matters unless it affects an American
bob the moo16 March 2002
When an American tourist comes to Burma with her sister to try and move on from the murder of her husband and son. However a midnight walk brings her into the middle of a student demonstration where she loses her passport. Left behind by her tour group she begins tour of discovery through the troubled country led by U Aung Ko. She discovers a world of atrocities that have not been exposed to the media.

There's no denying that there is a great story here – it is a powerful tale of injustice, military rule and massacres that happened away from the public eye. However this film does not really tell that story. Instead it focuses on an American doctor on holiday in Burma who allows us to see all these things. However it comes across like it's about her rather than the country. She is seen as the most important character and we have a subplot about her overcoming the loss of her family in the US. It takes away from the central story and makes this feel like a soap.

Of course it needn't have been like that. It's only a terrible, flat, lifeless performance from Arquette that does this. She is so flat that it's hard to care about her and it comes across even more like a soap. She gives us shock, self-righteous indignation etc all under a monotone voice over than made me want to sleep. She manages to come across as more important than everyone else in the country and it's as she only sees events in terms of how they affect her. Outside of Arquette the support cast are good – U Aung Ko in particular, but McDormand and Grey are OK.

The film continues with Hans Zimmer's standard `Far East' score (compare this to Black Rain to see what I mean) and Arquette discovering herself and spuing philosophy everywhere. However at the end the film acts as a metaphor for why the US didn't know about events in Burma – because no one cares about massive deaths unless a Westerner is involved. We see in on the news everyday – hundreds killed in a third world country is relegated to the end of the news, after a story about what Brittany was wearing that day! But if one American was killed then it would be the lead story with politicians running from all corners to comment on it.

The film manages to take a terrible, emotive story and make it into a beautifully shot drama about one American woman who only sees things in terms of how they affect her. Boorman has a good try but really needed a much better actress to lift the script.
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5/10
A heartbreakingly beautiful country
khatcher-22 April 2002
Brave performance here by Patricia Arquette, making up somewhat for any lack there may arguably have been in her being cast for the part. The rest of the cast as well as the photography keeps the film at an acceptable level. Not so the music from Hans Zimmer, which, as often happens in other films with his music, one senses the plagiarism as he wanders about from cuasi-Isham to almost Vangelis forms; Boorman's directing was rather loose at times and some poor editing did not help. Notwithstanding all this, the film maintains interest precisely because it is Burma – now Myanmar – which is the true protagonist of the unfolding story – not the actors. It is the tragedy of Myanmar, hardly ever in the headlines, that keeps interest for the discerning viewer.

A second viewing of this film recently confirmed this way of watching the film for me.

I was in Burma (then) in 1971: rebuilt Japanese war vehicles converted into little buses ran the streets of Rangoon; nearly a quarter of a century later Boorman was filming the same vehicles! From the fabulous insult of Shwé Dagon north to Pagan and Mandalay and east to Karen country around the lake at Inlé, repression was evident at all times. The poverty of the filthy streets in the capital with open drains and sewers ……….. and amidst all this the incredibly beautiful British colonial architecture of the Government house presiding over the mess. The Shwé Dagon pagoda displays that magnificent heritage of 10th and 11th Century Burma as well as many others around the country, but is an insult to the peoples striving to live in the ruins of a despotic régime.

If Boorman sought to illustrate this, pity indeed he did not do it 25 years earlier. But whilst the mixture of races – Indians, Bangladeshis, Laotians, Karens and other indigenous Burmese races – continue to suffer, but the repression does not affect interests of other nations, above all the US, there is no Nobel Prize which will change the course of events, and no film will do it either. With its back to the world, shut in inside its frontiers, the tottering régime stumbles on in no direction, stagnating in its own mire, and shunning anything anyone may say or do about the situation.

So you can see that my interpretation of the film is rather tainted, a very personal point of view. But do not be dissuaded: the story line maintains a certain coherency, though at times Patricia Arquette running and running and running at times had me almost laughing.
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