Five Films to satisfy travel urges in isolation

Tom Cramp


Through the magic of cinema, we can leave reality behind for 90 minutes or so and imagine we are sunbathing on an idyllic beach or quad biking through the Sahara Desert. Shut the curtains, crack open whatever food the supermarkets had left, and watch one these five films that will allow your mind to leave the confines of the quarantine, if only temporarily.

The Beach

Danny Boyle’s adaptation of a 1996 novel by Alex Garland is a dramatic adventure movie that depicts and young man travelling around South East Asia who, after a series of strange encounters, discovers a remote, pristine beach somewhere off the coast of Thailand.

Much like many of us did before Covid-19 came along, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character prances around this white sandy paradise, blissfully ignorant that things are about to go very wrong. The film encapsulates the wealth of emotion felt when you’re travelling alone through unfamiliar environments, and the incredible settings of Koh Phi Phi Le (the not-so-secret-anymore island where the film was shot) are perfect for whisking your imagination off the sofa and onto a sun lounger.

Fun fact: Leonardo DiCaprio made $20 million from the film but only after being asked to shed 20 pounds. It was the actor’s first lead role since Titanic.

Lost in Translation

Sofia Coppola, daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, wrote and produced this masterpiece in 2003 and cast Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson as the two main characters. It is a hilarious, charming, witty story about two people, both of whom are going through a personal crisis, that form an unlikely friendship in Tokyo’s bustling Park Hyatt hotel.

The two of them are surrounded by so much noise and chaos yet still feel lonely, which is a running theme throughout the movie that may resonate with frequent international travellers. Shooting locations such as the vibrant, idiosyncratic neighbourhoods of Shinjuku and Shibuya are great for nostalgia and resemble an advertising campaign for the Tokyo tourism board if you’ve never been before.

The film won an Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Picture, while Bill Murray was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Other main themes include culture shock, insomnia, loneliness, existentialism and isolation – sound familiar?

Fun fact: Lost in Translation is Bill Murray’s personal favourite from his own work, and Scarlet Johansson was only 17 at the time of filming.  

The Way Back (2010)

No, not Ben Affleck’s new movie about basketball, although that could also be good to heal the wounds of bewildered sports fans. The Way Back is a classic survival film that sees Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan and Jim Sturgess stage a daring escape from a Soviet Gulag during World War Two and walk 4,000 miles to freedom.

During their ordeal, the fugitives cross inhospitable environments such as freezing Siberian forests, the scorching Mongolian desert and snow-capped Himalayan mountains, all with little or no equipment or gear. The cinematography is at times dazzling; few films capture the ruthlessness of nature as well as The Way Back.

Fun Fact: The film is based on the memoirs of Slavomir Rawicz who had claimed that the story was a depiction of his own life. However, the BBC discovered records in 2006 that showed his release by the USSR in 1942. In 2009, another Polish soldier claimed that the book was really about his escape, but this claim has also been widely contested.

In Bruges

After a job goes wrong, two Irish hitmen flee London and end up in the picturesque Belgian city of Bruges to lay low for a while. While Brendon Gleeson’s character is eager to explore the beautiful medieval town and delve into its rich history, Colin Farrell’s character is more preoccupied with going to the pub and complaining about the town in a hilarious manner.

The contrasting personalities of the two characters create side-splitting dialogue and a very quotable script that is heavily laden with bad language. However, there are dark undertones throughout this film that take the audience on an emotional journey from start to finish. It’s a story about morality, guilt and redemption mostly, but is thoroughly entertaining and features exceptional footage of one of the prettiest towns in Europe.

Fun fact: The F-word and its derivatives are said 126 times in this 107-minute film, an average of 1.18 per minute. Also, the painting that Ray comments on is "The Last Judgment" by Hieronymus Bosch. Bosch-like symbolism recurs throughout the movie (the dwarf is one example), suggesting that Ray and Ken may be subject to some sort of final judgement because of their sins - or that the waiting period in Bruges is akin to purgatory.

Into the Wild

The true story that captured Christopher McCandless a.k.a. Alexander Supertramp’s journey from his graduation ceremony in suburban America to an abandoned van in the harsh Alaskan wilderness has won the hearts of most who've watched it. Into the Wild is an endearing tale of a man who categorically rejects normal society and the rules that bind it, instead opting to hike across North America to Alaska in the early 90s and live off the land, far from civilisation.

Some say his endeavour was foolhardy, others admire his courage and stoicism. Either way, Sean Penn’s adaptation of John Krakauer’s book of the same name is a compelling story about ultimate freedom, the allure of danger and the wilderness, and the quest to find one’s identity – perfect for a lazy afternoon of escapism. Also, who hasn’t considered packing a bag and running off to the hills recently?

Fun fact: Emile Hirsch lost 40 pounds to play the role and wore Christopher McCandless’ real watch that was given to him as a present. 

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