John Boorman's Beyond Rangoon had been on my list to watch for a while, and when I finally got around to seeing it, I was blown away--and not just because there's stuff exploding all over the place. Set in 1988, and based on actual events, it's the story of young doctor Laura Bowman, (Patricia Arquette) a grieving widow whose husband and son were murdered. She sets about on a guided tour of Burma--thinking that perhaps she can gain some spiritual perspective in a land where big stone Buddhas are all over the place. But there's political unrest in the country--it's military leaders cracking down on pro-democracy protesters. When Laura loses her passport, she's in for a longer than expected stay. One thing leads to another and she falls in with dissident students and a former professor (Ang Ko) who is being targeted by the brutal regime. When he gets shot, it becomes a race against time. Constantly dodging bullets, he's trying to get her to the Thai border so she can escape the country, while she's trying desperately to find him the proper medical care.
Beyond Rangoon is a captivating film, underscored by a lush and haunting soundtrack from Hans Zimmer. And Patricia Arquette (even though she doesn't show any skin) was totally hot in this movie. Something about those nostrils that flare whenever she's in immediate peril.
Watching Beyond Rangoon, I was immediately reminded of another of my favorite films: The Year of Living Dangerously with Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver--directed by Peter Weir. The similarities between these two movies could not be ignored, and so I watched The Year of Living Dangerously again (for the fourth time) . It pointed out to me that I am fond of a certain type of flick that doesn't have a distinct genre, (other than "political thriller," I suppose) but is marked by the following characteristics:
1. Exotic locale
2. Political turmoil in the region
3. Protagonists working through their own personal stuff against the backdrop of a situation spiraling out of control and growing danger to themselves.
In The Year of Living Dangerously, set in the 60s, Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson) is a young Australian journalist newly assigned to his post in Jakarta, Indonesia --where poverty is widespread and there is mounting political opposition to president Sukarno. Hamilton teams with local photographer Billy Kwan, (the diminutive Linda Hunt--totally convincing as a male dwarf) who has some inside contacts and helps Hamilton break a big story. With civil war brewing in the country, the reporter meets British embassy officer Jill Bryant, (Sigourney Weaver--who is also totally hot in this flick) and a budding romance ensues--even though she's returning to the UK in a couple of weeks. When Jill drops some sensitive information (about a communist arms shipment headed for Jakarta) on Guy, she thinks it will be held in confidence, but he puts his career first and decides to run with the story--letting the chips fall where they may and trying to undo the damage it does to their relationship later.
There is great chemistry between Gibson and Weaver here--some even called them a modern day Bogart and Bacall. And Linda Hunt gives a bravura performance (for which she scored an Oscar) as Billy, a devoted but troubled soul who is about to go off the deep end. Spellbinding music is contributed by Maurice Jarre, with a little Jerry Lee Lewis mixed in to stir things up !
That Patricia Arquette (star of the TV series Medium) and Sigourney Weaver were both foxy in these films--and couldn't exactly be described that way now--has not so much to do with age as the unflattering (indeed ghastly) hair styles they've chosen for themselves recently. Contrary to the belief that runs rampant among the fair sex, EVERY woman doesn't look great in EVERY type of hair style--and experimenting willy-nilly with your hair, ladies, will eventually lead to disaster. So please allow me to suggest as gently as I can: IF IT LOOKS GOOD, LEAVE THE DAMN HAIR ALONE ! (A major pet-peeve of mine--and lots of guys who won't be as honest with you as I am, for fear of getting hit in the head by a swinging purse...but I digress.)
Beyond Rangoon and The Year of Living Dangerously are two films I highly recommend for those who love the romance of drama...the drama of romance. (What else is there?) See them in tandem to get the full effect.