Directed by Michael Haussman, the film is a period drama that showcases the true story of James Brooke, also known as the Rajah of Sarawak (Malaysian state). Brooke was also an inspiration for the famous story The Man Who Would Be King written by Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad’s novel Lord Jim. Thus, one can perceive the significance of his journey.
If the new adventure film “ Edge of the World,” about a British explorer and soldier in 1840s Borneo, seems suspicious like “The Man Who Would Be King” and “Lord Jim,” it’s for good reason. It was the inspiration for both. Both Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad were moved by the true story of James Brooke, a former soldier in the Bengal Army who would become the Raj of Sarawak at the height of the British Empire. Brooke’s family ended up governing there for a century.
History is riddled with violence and the story here is no exception, though, for a story about a man fighting the tradition of beheading your enemy, there is a distinct lack of aggression for the bulk of the film. Towards the start, we witness the brutality of which the indigenous communities are capable, but these instances fade into the background as we hone in on Brooke’s journey. Haussman keeps these elements out as a way to enforce Brooke’s blindness to the savage capacity of those within his rule, holding them back until the finale at which time bloody carnage is spewed forth. By reigning in the violence in such a way, Haussman ensures maximum impact, suddenly snapping the audience, like Brooke, out of the hedonistic dreamworld in which they have been existing.
The always intense Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as Brooke, a wanderer by nature who has never felt at home in Victorian England. Born in India and once a soldier, he’s seen enough to know what he’s not looking for and thus takes his inheritance and funds wild missions with his pals. He’s also decidedly more modern than many of his peers in terms of how he views colonialism and is fascinated by other cultures, not as conquests for an empire, but on their terms. Even so, he shares some views with his countrymen about “civilizing” the more “savage” aspects of some of the native people he encounters.
This is a film that is striving to be a classic swashbuckler, a lyrical mediation on exploration and identity, and a knowingly modern commentary on a deplorable but significant era in world history. Not unlike Brooke’s, the ambitions were admirably grand. While it might not knock it out of the park, “Edge of the World” is still a very solid watch if a little slow-going and might also just inspire you to revisit some of the classics it's indebted to which is its small triumph.
A lavishly shot and thoughtfully pieced-together drama, Edge of the World, does occasionally suffer from some pacing issues. The narrative often languishes with nothing driving it forwards. However, Brooke’s story is fascinating enough that it manages to keep the viewer interested and once the beautifully brutal finale begins, you’ll be hooked.
Final Score – [6.8/10]
Reviewed by – Ritika Kispotta
Follow her @KispottaRitika on Twitter (https://twitter.com/KispottaRitika)
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