For his first major project after the overwhelming success of Titanic, Leonardo Di Caprio took a risky path in this adaptation of Alex Garland's acclaimed novel, directed by Danny Boyle. Richard (Di Caprio) is an American backpacking through Asia with a handful of friends from Europe. While in Bangkok, he meets a mad Scotsman who calls himself Daffy Duck (Robert Carlyle). Shortly before Mr. Duck kills himself, he gives Richard a crude map to a place in Thailand that he claims is paradise on earth: beautiful, unspoiled, and uninhabited. For lack of anything better to do, Richard and his companions try to locate the spot, which, after a dangerous and taxing journey, takes them to a beach as beautiful as Duck said it would be. Richard and his friends settle in, but before long they discover that they are not alone; a large group of fellow travelers has already dug themselves in, and they have established a community with the same social evils that Richard was hoping to leave behind. Just as important, there is an army of natives who grow marijuana in the nearby hills and do not appreciate the presence of these visitors. The Beach proved controversial during production, partly due to production delays and shifting release dates, partly due to environmental concerns after crew members bulldozed parts of the Thai island of Phi Phi Le for the planting of non-native trees.
by Mark Deming synopsis