Review: Beyond the Reach
The phrase “why won’t you just die?” when uttered to the skies is the kind of normally cringe-worthy, outrageous dialogue that would plague most films but actually works in Beyond the Reach. It’s a bare-bone, stripped-down tale of hunter and hunted set in the Southwestern dessert, and it’s yelled at just the right time in this adventure.
When a reckless accident happens on an excursion into the desolate wilderness, the wealthy hunter Madec (Michael Douglas) looks to pin his tragedy on the young Ben (Jeremy Irvine). Initially starry-eyed, Ben soon realizes the horror in his situation, where it’s one rich and powerful man’s word against that of a nobody.
Instead of aligning himself with the lie, Ben stays defiant, and also puts his life in danger.
The movie seems to realize it is pushing the boundaries of believability, and uses both characters to balance a mood that runs from grave to absurd. When we follow Ben as he tries to survive, we find him burnt from the sun, bruised from the rocks, and covered in dust. He is grasping to precious life and fighting with every ounce he hast life, and we too feel the sun on our skin and dust in our lungs.
Then there is Madec: cavalier, careless, pompous. He sips a martini and breaks out a folding chair to watch Ben stumble around the dessert, waiting for him to die. Madec didn’t find any bighorn sheep to hunt, but man seems a nice substitute. Even though he might be not able to mount a trophy on his wall.
Madec doesn’t make that joke, but he may as well have. Douglas brings both much-needed levity and humour to the proceedings, which last a rather surprisingly long time; director Jean-Baptiste Leonetti gets a lot out of such a simple construct. The desert is the playground, wit Ben running up and over rugged crags, into holes and caverns, all the while Douglas horses around with his supped up truck, his rifle, and lots of dynamite.
The film runs out of steam in the finale and heads off the tracks, if only slightly, but it doesn’t erase what is a guiltily satisfying if not inane thriller. You never quite feel the requisite evil within Madec to hate him, or the assume virtue of Ben, but their game is still fun to watch.