The other reviewers have basically explained the story, so I won't bother except to clarify that the movie is set in Thailand and not Tibet! The piece explores complex ideas of modern friendship and the concept of human responsibility through a tragic tale of innocence lost in the midst of a corrupt Thai justice system. The movie burns slowly, which is beautifully captured in the production, editing and soundtrack. Clare Danes gives a stunning performance as the reforming sinner, drawing heavy influences from Shakespearean ideals of the classical tragic hero. Kate Beckinsale gives a more convincing performance than the forgettable 'Pearl Harbour' but nonetheless, her rather emotionless facade often seems unconvincingly fragile juxtaposed with Dane's super-charged characterisation and melodramatic expression. Nonetheless, the pair have considerable chemistry, and their unusual relationship seems suitibly flawed, yet strong enough to be genuine. In contrast, Bill Pullman is dragged out to perform his familiar American archetype (see any of his other films for reference) and appears to act entirely without motive throughout the whole movie. Despite some dubious stereotypes of Thailand being used, their situation is believable and tragic. However, the prison environment where much of the movie is set is simply not harsh enough. It is difficult, at times, to understand where their emotional turmoil is growing from, as we are rarely allowed insight to the terrifying state of Third World Justice. There are also some random appearences of college friends and a few plot-holes. However, despite an over-simplified plot and an extremely unrealistic escape attempt, it is impossible not to be moved by the experience. Although Dane's actions carry an inexplicable sense of redemption, they are incredibly moving. She manages to show extremes of grief and happiness in a few minutes of film, which beautifully closes the story. Most interestingly, the plot is almost a love story, but based on an entirely plutonic friendship, a little explored relationship in recent films. In conclusion, Danes really saves this piece - like her character, the film is heavily flawed, but somehow effortlessly manages to emerge as an object of genuine affection and respect in just 120 minutes. Watch it, don't think about it too much, cry and then call your best friend - I promise you'll feel a whole lot happier about life!
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