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Beyond Rangoon

4.7 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews

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(May 26, 2009)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A young San Francisco widow is swept into a political uprising in Burma after her sister reluctantly drags her on a Southeast Asia tour.

Working at the top of his form, John Boorman is a director who can pursue the poetry of his personal obsessions within the framework of a dynamic thriller and not shortchange the film. Beyond Rangoon involves a journey into unfamiliar territory: the rivers, jungles, and war-torn backcountry of Burma in 1988; But it also ventures into the mythic Arthurian terrain of such seemingly disparate films as Excalibur, Point Blank, and Deliverance. This time, uniquely in this director's work, the quester is a woman. American doctor Laura Bowman (Patricia Arquette) regards her life as having ended after the brutal murder of her husband and their little boy by home invaders. Her sister (Frances McDormand) has persuaded her to come along on a sightseeing tour of Burma. The trip leaves Laura numb until, impulsively venturing into the night alone, she becomes witness to a crisis moment in history: the beginning of the military dictatorship's violent crackdown on the rising democracy movement. The sight of Aung San Suu Kyi, the dissidents' inspirational leader, facing down a wall of armed soldiers with only the power of serene self-possession inspires Laura (an amazing scene--and it really did happen).

But that's only the beginning of Laura’s movement toward enlightenment, and back to life. Beyond Rangoon abounds in memorable encounters--with individuals variously supportive and terrifying, and with locations and situations where hope and catastrophe trade off like valences of the same energy. As critic Kathleen Murphy has noted, "It's as though the fabric of reality shivers like water, racking focus into a new, altered pattern of experience." (Case in point: the startling image of a car's rear window star-shattered by a pursuer's bullet as Laura drives down an almost nonexistent jungle road--the pursuit car sharply irised in the bullet hole.) Boorman makes us feel the total chaos of a spectacularly beautiful land that is not only at the mercy of a brutal regime but utterly cut off from an outside world that doesn't, can't, know what's happening there. In this, Boorman's movie immeasurably increased awareness of Burma's tragedy, but it hasn't prevented the government of what's now called Myanmar from keeping Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest more than 20 years later. --Richard T. Jameson

Special Features

  • Making-of featurette
  • Theatrical trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Patricia Arquette, U Aung Ko, Frances McDormand, Spalding Gray, Tiara Jacquelina
  • Directors: John Boorman
  • Writers: Alex Lasker, Bill Rubenstein
  • Producers: John Boorman, Alex Lasker, Barry Spikings, Bill Rubenstein, Eric Pleskow
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), Portuguese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Japanese, Portuguese
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: May 26, 2009
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005JN7T
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,761 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Beyond Rangoon" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
Patricia Arquette stars as a tourist vacationing in the country of Burma. Why someone who had just lost her husband and son to murder would vacation there is beyond me. But let's not quibble about something that is minor compared to what is a sweeping and powerful qwest for freedom.
The qwest for freedom in the movie is for Arquette, her Burmese friends, and for the Burmese people. Arquette is unwittingly dumped by Fate into harm's way, only to rediscover her own inner strength. The Burmese people have been living in harm's way for years under a brutal military regime. It takes all the inner strength they can muster to make it through each day. And for those who are truly brave, there may be opportunities to escape into Thailand.
I won't go into detail on the plot. Suffice to say that I was greatly moved by the stories in the movie. I verified the horrible life faced by the Burmese people after watching this movie. I didn't know. We in the West live in ignorance of such horrifying human rights abuses. Burma's struggle is not on the news every night. These people largely suffer in silence.
The movie probably tones it down quite a bit. The Burmese army routinely enscripts and brutalizes child labor to build roads (often for Western companies). The army routinely rapes women in villages around the country. And the army has systematically murdered adult men, particularly any man even thought to be in opposition to the dictatorship. Burma experiences the depths of evil everyday.
We owe it to ourselves to watch such movies. They remind us of what man is capable of and what we must overcome. They remind us of the power we have to overcome. And they remind us to be thankful for the freedoms we in the West enjoy.
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Format: VHS Tape
Patricia Arquette is excellent as a young woman numb with grief who slowly comes to terms with being left behind after her husband and young son are murdered in their home during a robbery. When she travels to Burma to vacation with her sister, Andy (Frances McDormand), she finds a country in as much pain as she is and slowly finds the purpose she so desparately needs. Based on actual events, John Boorman deftly weaves on a large loom the fine thread of Laura Bowman's intimate story with the thicker yarn of a country fighting for democracy.

Laura (Arquette) and her sister, Andy (Frances McDormand), are on vacation in Burma, two American tourists enjoying a boat ride down a beautifully scenic river in Burma. Laura has been brought here by her sister in the hopes it will help her move forward after she has lost everything she loved. Though Laura seems stoic, there is tremendous pain just beneath the surface, emotions so strong she dare not let herself feel them. She has walked away from her life as a doctor because she could not heal herself and is drifting on a boat of sorrow.

Boorman shows us a visually beautiful country, that like Arquette, has deep emotions just below the surface. One night in her hotel room Laura hears a demonstration in the streets and is drawn to it, witnessing firsthand the call for freedom as one woman fearlessly calls for democracy in the midst of soldiers sent to stop her. That woman is Aung Suu Kui (Adelle Lutz). The soldiers are, in a larger sense, her sons and brothers, and she bravely walks to them and lowers their weapons.

When Laura is separated from her sister she forms a friendship with an elderly teacher and a group of young students who are seeking change.
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Format: VHS Tape
Beyond Rangoon is an excellent movie for understanding the struggle between freedom and oppression.
I happened to be on the Thai border in September of 1988 just prior to the massive movement of people across the border due to the response to Aung San Suu Kyi and her following. I did not know that at the time. All I remember is that on Thai TV a border war seemed to be starting and the road that I was driving on just the week before was being bombed by the Burmese.
The story, although referring to the rebellion and some of those who fled, is more about Archette's character as she struggled to forget the death of her son and husband. As a Doctor, she never took time to get away, and Rangoon seemed a place to be that was exotic.
She takes a walk one very balmy evening only to see Aung San Suu Kyi and her followers walking enmasse on the street. There is later the next day another protest, then things unravel and Archette, Dr. Laura Bowman, is forced to flee.
The flight across the jungle is intense. You actually feel the horror she feels, the close calls, yet, she is helped to flee by virtual strangers with a mutual desire to survive.
This is an excellent movie as an introduction to Myanmar/Burmese history. I have stayed on the border with some of the Karen peoples, whom you will be introduced to at the end of the movie. They are a kind people who also have been effected by the power politics that is Myanmar.
This movie is a keeper and worth watching now and again to remind you that the rest of the world does not rest as easy as we do in the west.
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