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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
This is a film, it seems, that people either love or hate. There is truth, perhaps, to both the criticism and the compliments that have been bandied about by this film. One thing that is clear to me is that looking more deeply into the film's subtext would probably change a lot of minds.

True, some of the auxiliary characters are cliche' and underdeveloped. But in fairness, that's why they are "auxiliary."

True, not all of the sets and camera work were Academy Award character. But once again, in fairness, the imagery of the film and the beautiful use of light and color makes some of those faults less apparent.

True, it is a horrible story about what "happened" to them. Yet once again echoing other reviewers, this story is not really about the horror of the prison experience in and of itself.

What holds this movie together is the acting of Danes and the complexity of her character. What did happen between her and Nick Barnes? We never really know. What we see is a conflicted person who wants desperately to be believed while everyone, including her own father, sees her as the "trouble-maker" and assumes her guilt.

The relationship she develops with Bill Pullman's character brings out this complexity. He is the only one to shower the kindness of presumed innocence on her, and perhaps that is what prompts her to take the fall for her friend.

The question is, do you really think she was taking the fall or did she know more than she says? Or was it Darlene playing the innocent victim? We are left to wonder and to replay the scenes of them on their way to the airport attempting to figure out who, if anybody, really was innocent in all of this.

Those who like interesting character studies will enjoy this performance. A great soundtrack and a pretty good movie make this sufficient eye-candy for the rest of us. I recommend it!
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 3, 2005
Dismissed by some as lightweight because they felt the Thailand prison scenes were not brutal enough, this is actually a terrific film about the complex friendship of two girls and a sacrifice made by one to save the other. Claire Danes gives a great performance as the girl most likely to get into trouble and Kate Beckinsale shines as the good girl who sees more in her friend than her parents do, especially her father.

After graduating high school they cook up a scheme to visit exotic Thailand on the cheap and do something special, telling Beckinsale's parents they are off to Hawaii. They meet Aussie Daniel Lapaine and he charms both girls into going to Hong Kong with them to continue their adventure. Jealousy plays a part as it is unclear at first which one he likes the best. But all is not as it seems and he disappears just as heroin is found by customs in their backpack.

What follows as they are imprisoned in Thailand with seemingly no way out as each begins to question their friendship and wonder if maybe, just maybe, the other one knew about the heroin, is compelling. Beckinsale's father comes to Thailand and, of course, blames Danes for getting his daughter into this mess. Danes does a good job at conveying the hurt she is trying not to show for the faith no one has ever shown in her, except for her friend Beckinsale.

Bill Pullman gives a solid performance as a slightly opportunistic and sleazy lawyer in Thailand who may be able to help them get out for a price. Adding to the atmosphere is a soundtrack just as exotic as the locale. Everything from Delerium's "Silence" and a remake of "Rock the Casbah" to the beautiful voice of Sarah Brightman on "Deliverance" set a unique mood for a good film.

This is an entertaining and thought provoking meditation on friendship and loyalty. A sacrifice by one to save the other is one you'll never forget. Beckinsale, and especially Danes, really sparkle in an unusual film you won't want to miss. Pick this one up. It's a nice surprise.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2008
...I've seen this movie many, many times now and I enjoy watching the movie every single time, even knowing how the movie will end. The reason why, in my opinion, is because of the great performance of Claire Danes. She plays the role so convincingly well that at the end of the movie you actually buy into the choice her character makes, and that makes it believable, understandable and plausible. In the absence of such a performance, I don't think the ending would have worked so well. I've seen other movies she's done, and I don't think she's ever been better. If she doesn't do another movie or reprise another role, she should be proud of the work she does here. The movie would not have worked without her. Period.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 29, 2005
I bought this just the other day based on all the high recommendations that were being given to it, and not to mention all the reviews that cited how good the acting was. Ever since I saw Igby Goes Down I've been a pretty big fan of Claire Danes (minus the horrific T3), and I also really like Kate Beckinsale so I figured I'd try it. As the credits started to roll at the end of the film I found myself shocked at how amazing this movie was. Not only was the acting magnificent, the plot was also top notch. Who isn't afraid that someone stashed something in their bag without them knowing it when they go to the airport? Who isn't afraid of foreign prisons? Who isn't afraid of prison in general? This is where this movie shines, putting those fears on film.

We start off at Alice and Darlene's high school graduation. They decide to go to Hawaii for vacation but then hear how amazing it is in Thailand, so, at the last minute, change their minds. Everything seems fine until Alice and Darlene meet a mysterious man. He offers to fly the two out to Hong Kong so they can hang out for a while longer, and after some coaxing a reluctant Alice decides to go. But while in line at the airport they are detained for trying to smuggle drugs onto a plane. This is where the movie is put into a league of it's own. In some movies you can tell it's just acting, but in this you really feel that these two are really going through this horrid ordeal.

With supurb acting from everyone involved, and a cast of familiar faces, you can't go wrong. Even Lou Diamond Phillips, in his short time on film, does a great job. But the real kudos go to Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale. Everything they do seems so genuine, like you could see a piece of yourself or someone you know in these characters. Now I don't want to sound like a broken record but this movie is a true testament to friendship, through thick or thin.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2000
I admit the movie does remind me a bit of "Return to Paradise", but I did like it and look forward to owning it. Claire Danes was wonderful, like always, and I thought Kate did a good job, too. Good movie, great acting!
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2005
It is a story of two best friends who end up in a Thai prison for supposedly smuggling drugs. Claire Danes,Kate Beckinsale and Bill Pullman did amazing performances. The ending is such a good ending. I can watch this movie over and over again. It is a really heart wrenching movie.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2000
No, this film wasn't mentioned at this year's Oscars, and it won't be mentioned at next year's Oscars either, but lighten up, it was entertaining! If I had to sit down and analyze this movie I would probably end up disliking it too, but for my Abe Lincoln and the trip to Blockbuster, this was a damn good two hours. You can't go wrong with Claire Danes, and having Bill Pullman in it was an added bonus. Yes, it did remind me of Return to Paradise, but I would have Claire Danes in my movie before Ann Heche any day of the week. In fact, scrub out Return to Paradise all together and make Vince Vaughn the Australian and you've got an even better movie! I'm rambling, but you get my point. I thought the ending, although sad, was unexpected, well done, and yes, believable. I don't know if I would be big enough to do that, but I believe there are people who are. Go see this movie if you haven't already...you'll thank me later!
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2004
Many negative reviews seem to be under the misapprehension that this movie is about something which it is not. Something that, if it were to incorporate those elements, would completely change the character of the film--turning it from a story about friendship, character, and life's little events to one about the horrors of the foreign prison.
This film is not about prison or about life in prison. It is not about drug smuggling. Criticizing it on this is like saying that Pirates of the Caribbean is a horrible movie because it doesn't represent an accurate portrayal of shipboard life.
It is a stunningly beautiful and well done (at points artistic) portrayal of the depths of friendship and the strength of human character ("if you are lying..."). The sets and acting are wonderful, the examination of the Thai legal system seemed fair (regardless of whether those are the actual conditions in prison, I am not qualified to judge nor do I care for the purposes of this film), and there were several underlying moral questions without clear answers.
Which is another thing: this movie doesn't leave you with all of the answers. Nothing is left accidentally dangling, but there are several things left for you to chew on.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2001
The premise of 'Brokedown Palace' is one that instantly uneases its audience - incarcaration in a foreign jail. Although this issue has been depicted before, this is the first film of its kind to have two female leads as its main focus.
Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale star as two close friends who travel to Thailand in search of adventure, fun and most of all freedom. Along the way they fall for the same mysterious stranger and throw caution to the wind in competing for his affections. After a few days in his company the girls are invited on a trip to Hong Kong so that they can accompany him on a business trip. Trusting his seemingly honest motives, the girls agree and arrange to meet him out there once his work is completed. Once they arrive at the airport they are searched by Thai officials and are found with large quantities of narcotics. Arrested by an army of officers and escorted to a disgustingly dirty holding cell, they are left with nothing except each other, a few hundred cockroaches and a language barrier. It is here that the drama unfolds and the provocative nature of 'Brokedown Palace' emerges.
The main question raised by the film is of the girls innocence, but the interesting part is that it is never really answered. After fruitless attempts of trying to clear their names ( with the help of expatriate lawyer Bill Pullman ) self - sacrifice becomes the last resort. Here is the films strength - usually tales like this have a black or white ending, but 'Brokedown Palace' delivers a thought-provoking finale that is highly original in it's field.
The only criticisms that I would make about it relate more to location and post - production, than casting or performances. For a start the prison itself is far too tame to create sufficient tension for the audience. Alice ( Danes ) receives a beating from a guard that resembles more of a smack on the legs, and the scariest inmate seems to be a trouble-making adolescent. More time should have been shifted away from the focus of Pullman's character and placed on a much more valuable aspect of the film - the bond between the girls. Neither seem to be bothered by the 33-year prison sentence, nor the mandatory prison haircuts they are forced to have. Not the best idea when trying to capture the horrific conditions and prospects the characters both face.
Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale excell in their respective roles, as do most of the other actors. But over-editing of decent 'gritty' scenes in the prison create its downfall. Overall 'Brokedown Palace' is a good film with excellent performances by it's leading ladies, but unfortunately a rather lightweight and lacklustre final edit rob it of its potential.
The trailer for 'Brokedown Palace' is literally more scary than the actual film, but other factors such as the love-triangle that emerges, and the strained relationships that surface between the girls and their parents help make it a decent film with pockets of credibility.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2000
Critics say this story has already been told, so compare it to Midnight Express: * Billy Hayes was guilty of smuggling; those in Brokedown Palace are innocent victims of a conspiracy to imprison them for decades or life. The heartbreaking unfairness adds richness to the story. * Midnight Express judged Turkey; Brokedown Palace is culturally sensitive to Thailand, and to what constitutes justice across cultures. Midnight Express felt America-centric; Brokedown Palace's theme of the importance of human character highlights a Thai value.* Billy Hayes spends the film doing time; Alice Marano demonstrates a character of iron in the face of almost impossible adversity, while those surrounding her, of greater privilege, demonstrate weak character.*Summary:* Yes, Brokedown Palace is depressing. So are Philadelphia, the Killing Fields, Saving Private Ryan, others. It's a tragedy that needs to be told, and heard - a sensitive, powerfully moving story of sacrifice, growth & strength.
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