Edge of the World
Narration is tricky. When executed well, it’s a nice way to introduce some introspection and philosophical themes into a film, but when done poorly it comes off more as a way for a writer to work in some characterisation where there was none to begin with. Sadly, Edge of the World is an example of the latter.
Set in the mid 19th century, it tells the story of James Brooke, a British ex-soldier and adventurer who was named the first white Rajah of Sarawak by the Sultan of Brunei after helping to crush a rebellion. It’s an interesting story, but it must be said that the production does not live up to the potential of its premise. From the off, Edge of the World is presented as a mix between Errol Flynn and Terrence Malick, with a combination of swashbuckling adventure and peaceful stillness. The problem is that this results in a tonally one-note affair, punctuated by some moments of excitement that do little to lift the mood or provide some variety. Simply put, it doesn’t work.
The tone remains flaccid throughout the runtime and scenes seem to meander, much like a few of the performances. Whilst Jonathan Rhys Myers and Dominic Monaghan do seem to inhabit their characters well, it must be said that they’re hindered by some eye-rollingly clichéd dialogue. A particular highlight is when Rhys Myers exclaims, “To rule the jungle I must love the jungle,” which is likely to elicit audible groans.
There are times when the film is quite beautiful, which is helped by the fact that it was shot on location in Borneo, and the production design as a whole is wonderful. But it’s very rare that a movie is able to survive on visuals alone and Edge of the World most certainly doesn’t. Perhaps the greatest problem is that it rests too heavily on the laurels of its influences. James Brooke’s introspective journey into the jungles of Borneo feels a little too close to Captain Willard’s pursuit of Colonel Kurtz in the heart of the Cambodian jungle. The ending doesn’t improve matters when it apes the confrontation between Willard and Kurtz almost to a tee.
The combination of all of these elements results in Edge of the World coming off as less Apocalypse Now and more kerfuffle whenever.
Edge of the World is released digitally on demand on 18th June 2021.
Watch the trailer for Edge of the World here: