It didn't take me long after 'Highlander' to see that director Russell Mulcahy had struck lucky in creating one of my favourite movies of all time. I've really not been a fan of his, so watching 'On The Beach' was a bit of a strange experience. Thankfully, it was filled with just enough originality and reasons to be liked for me to go the distance with it! Firstly, and most importantly to those looking for a thrill, this is not your movie. It's entirely character driven with a smattering of symbolism and it might be a bit too emotional for the action movie crowd. It's a show with an anti-nuclear message.
That being said, Mulcahy did infinitely more with $10 million than 'Blair Witch Project' did with $15 million in the same year and much of that comes down to the efforts and chemistry of the cast. That is a testament to the effort put into this production, though, as you really have to wonder; random camcorders and camping in the woods cost $5 million more than a submarine, a cast of international actors and a soundtrack? How? Moving on, I've never seen Armand Assante take the lead and now I'm looking to see what of his I can watch next. He was captivating from start to finish, taking up his character's mantle as though he'd been in the navy all his life. As for more tender and emotional scenes, it's quite endearing to watch such a gruff and edgy man portray all that he did. He carries much of the movie, but sometimes it's rushed outcome overshadows him.
Bryan Brown suffers an impatient or rushed cinematographer, not to mention a script that needed reigning in, whereas Rachel Ward and Grant Bowler came across as very natural and understated until it really counts.
As for any action, unfortunately it's the edgier scenes that Mulcahy was better known for that he consistently failed at. It really made me wonder what happened to him as a director because how could he mature as a dramatic director and then becomes so bad at what made him famous? All faults aside (including some horrendous editing), it's still a good effort and after all is said and done, if this TV movie and its culminating scenes don't blow your mind and leave you chilled to the bone, then I fear for the future. I think you have to want the message in order to want the film in this case!
Review by DanLives1980 from the Internet Movie Database.