Monday, July 5, 2010

On The Beach (1959)

Dark, thoughtful Stanley Kramer classic about a community of survivors living out their last days in Australia after the Cold War has escalated to the point of irradiating the rest of the planet. The message here is written on its sleeve; there are many scenes of long monologuing about how inevitable the planet's nuclear devastation was and how it was in our nature, and blah blah blah, but it's actually all written very effectively. The characters in the film are thin, but archtypal; of the four leads, Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire, Eva Gardner, and Anthony Perkins, Astaire and Perkins make the most sympathetic impressions while Peck and Gardner's romance is more interesting than either of their separate performances. There is a lot of submarine work in the film, due to Peck and Perkins' characters Navy ranking, and it looks fantastic and legitimate; a long sequence where the sub looks for survivors and/or methods of dispersing the global radiation proves to cause tension even when the planet seems globally doomed from the start. The gloom over the whole thing proves to be the defining factor of the film; in an era, clearly represented by Peck and Gardner's presence as leads, where films were basically legally obligated to be cheerful, this film has a one-two punch of having an unbeatable foe (nuclear radiation brought on by winds) and very uncompromising personal struggles. The last shots of the film are incredibly haunting and provocative.

Highly Recommended for fans of Sci-Fi with a more realistic, down to earth vibe a la Children of Men, which this film shares similarities to. Of the three Stanley Kramer films I've seen (so far), two of them have been very powerful social, moral tales; of the two, this is the lesser film (Judgement at Nuremberg being the other, superior film), but still wholly successful at conveying its message in a thoughtful, dramatic manner.

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