Monday, December 8, 2014

A-Z Movies, O: "On the Beach"

Recommended by:
Fark (online community)

Movie Stats:
Released 1959 (simultaneously in Australia, Sweden, USA, and W. Germany)
American, in English
Director – Stanley Kramer
Stars – Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins

Plot Summary:
Set in 1964 after all-out nuclear war has destroyed the northern hemisphere. When an American submarine lands in Melbourne, they find that Australia is still going on business-as-usual, although nuclear fallout is heading their way and they only have about five months to live. American commander Dwight Towers (Peck) meets local Moira Davidson (Gardner), who begins to fall for him, despite the fact that he’s still mourning the loss of his wife and children. Astaire co-stars as Julian Osborne, a scientist assigned to join the Americans on a reconnaissance mission; Perkins co-stars as Peter Holmes, an Australian naval lieutenant assigned to do the same thing.


Bad stuff:
Australian characters speaking without Australian accents. It drove me nuts.

There’s some stuff that’s supposed to be dramatic & poignant that just made me laugh, especially because the music was so incredibly overblown.

There’s not a lot of action. It’s more of a thinking-man's (or woman’s) movie.

Good Stuff:
The acting is superb. I thought everyone was great, very believable. I would point out who was the highlight, but they were all so good that I can’t pick just one. Everyone seems to have a scene where they truly shine.

This is the most realistic end-of-the-world movie I’ve ever seen. My problem with a lot of these movies is that they show people completely descending into chaos, like we all turn into mindless beasts when faced with the prospect of our own deaths. The truth is that disaster research shows that this is not the case. When faced with life-or-death situations, most of us resort to the roles that we play in regular life, because they’re so ingrained in our systems. That’s why I liked the reactions in this movie. I think it’s how people would truly behave.

The Verdict:
I saw this movie on a list of the best end-of-the-world movies, and several posters on Fark affirmed that it not only belonged on the list, but that it was one of the best movies they’d ever seen period. That intrigued me, so I had to watch it.

I really liked it a lot. It was both believable and relatable. Even though there isn’t a lot of action, it still held my interest. It’s definitely not a movie you want to watch if you’re already feeling depressed, or if you’re not in the mood to be brought “down” or contemplate your own mortality. This is a movie that makes you think. It’s maudlin. There are no happy endings here.

That having been said, it’s a great movie. I highly recommend it. You don’t often get to see such a great ensemble cast with such consistently good performances. Grab your hankie and give it a chance. 

I give the movie 4.25 stars.


Patricia said...

Maybe if you are feeling masochistic a triple feature with "Last Night" and that Steve Carrell movie I meant to see when it came out a few years ago?

"Last Night" completely slayed me, it was so depressing. But it was a "descend into chaos" film.

balyien said...

I've seen "Last Night" and agree that it's definitely an emotionally draining movie. Sandra Oh's character's desperation (and failure to) get home really kills me. I can't imagine being apart from my loved ones at the end of the world. :(

"Seeking a Friend..." is currently available on HBO Go. I plan to watch it at some point.