Beyond Rangoon Movie Review

Beyond Rangoon is absolutely typical of the way Hollywood can take a compelling story, full of genuine characters and heartfelt emotion, then hack it to tiny bits and put it back together, Frankenstein-like, into a sappy, overwrought drama that is without a soul and without a point.

The story is "based on actual events." Patricia Arquette plays Laura, an American doctor trying to find peace after the brutal murder of her husband and son. With her sister (Frances McDormand), they embark on a tour of the exotic East, including a peaceful stopover in Burma, a war-torn country ruled by military dictatorship (As they say, "In Burma, everything is illegal."). Laura's passport is lifted, and she finds herself trapped in the capital city of Rangoon, while her sister and their tour group head off to Bangkok. The Burmese pick that time to revolt, and Laura finds herself caught up in a civil war, which basically amounts to dodging bullets in the jungle while covered in mud.

Laura may have a medical degree, but she's also got the common sense of a stick. Any sensible person would have avoided this situation altogether. When she can't sleep...she heads down to check out how the local revolutionary rally is going, violating curfew. When she loses her passport and martial law is declared...she decides to leave Rangoon and sightsee in the country--to hell with the law! When her tour guide (U Aung Ko) doubts they can get back to the city in time...she responds, "Let's risk it!" In the end, she gets what she deserves. After all, she went to Burma didn't she?

It's hard to feel sorry for someone that acts so stupid, so often. And despite the constant threat of capture by the enemy, Beyond Rangoon is actually pretty boring. Director John Boorman is much more concerned with Laura's brooding over her dead son than with anything else. Of course, this is all part of the film's master plan: Toy with the viewers' emotions to the point that they can't feel anything but horror when seeing the terrible crimes of the Burmese. If Laura wasn't such an idiot, that might have worked.

Another disappointment is the wholesale ripping off of The Killing Fields, the Academy Award-winning film about a Cambodian refugee trying to escape the Khmer Rouge during the Vietnam War. The Killing Fields is one of the best "on the run" pictures ever made, and Beyond Rangoon borrows heavily from it, even to the extent of casting Spalding Gray in a minor role. Unfortunately, Beyond Rangoon borrows bits and pieces, and can't replicate the film's spirit.

Beyond Rangoon gets some points for at least having a noble premise, which is a pleasant change from typical Hollywood fare. U Aung Ko's tour guide/revolutionary is very engaging, too, and almost makes the picture worthwhile. One thing still bugs me, though, and it's got nothing to do with the sappy plot and hokey ending. I keep wondering, just how much numbingly repetitious, fluty woodwind music can one person stand, and where was Zanfir hiding during the takes?

Comments

Beyond Rangoon Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG-13, 1995

Advertisement

More Patricia Arquette

'Boyhood' has 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. It Is Almost the Perfect Movie

It's no surprise that Richard Linklater's movie Boyhood was this week installed as the favorite to win Best Picture at the Oscars next year. Filmed...

Ellar Coltrane's Journey As Mason in Richard Linklater's Boyhood

When Ellar Coltrane was auditioning for the role of Mason as a 6-year-old, Richard Linklater was more interested in the resilience of his parents rather...

Boyhood: The "Tremendous Risk" That Came Good at This Weekend's Box Office

The box office was dominated by big budget blockbusters this weekend: Dawn of The Planet of The Apes finally usurped Transformers: Age of Extinction’s dominance...

Boyhood Movie Review

By shooting this film over 12 years, writer-director Richard Linklater is able to explore family dynamics in an intensely involving way that's never been seen...

Advertisement

BOYHOOD is a once-in-a-lifetime classic

Shot over 12 years, Richard Linklater's new film Boyhood is being called the best movie of the decade. Its cast members have been out talking...

'Boyhood': Luck, Innovation and Bundles of Talent Mean Cinematic History Will Be Made This Weekend

This weekend marks a monumental release in the history of cinema. Richard Linklater, already lauded for his magnificent ‘Before’ trilogy, debuts his film ‘Boyhood’ in...

'Boyhood' Wows Critics & Promises To Change Cinema But Will Audiences Be As Impressed?

Boyhood is a coming-of-age film which literally follows its cast as they grown over the space of 12 years. The long filming has certainly impressed...

Boyhood Trailer

When Mason was an unwitting 6-year-old boy, he had no idea - like the rest of his peers - just how much of a rollercoaster...

Advertisement