Edge of the World : a swashbuckling white saviour biopic

Edge of the World, in a film that fails to examine the intricacy of its fascinating topic, Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays James Brooke, a British adventurer who became the White Rajah of Sarawak.

While James Brooke’s name may be unfamiliar to many viewers, his exploits in Southeast Asia, as depicted in Michael Haussman’s adventure biopic, are not. After all, they were the inspiration for Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad and The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling.

Brooke’s incredible path from ex-soldier in the Bengal army to becoming the White Rajah of Sarawak, which drew Errol Flynn’s attention at the time, is ready for the big screen. Unfortunately, Edge of the World falls short of capturing the essence of this interesting and complex period in British colonial history.

Brooke (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and his cousin Arthur (Dominic Monaghan) and nephew Charley (Otto Farrant), both army soldiers, arrive by boat in the scenic Sarawak. The local aristocrats, particularly Prince Mahkota, react with distrust and hostility to their presence (BrontPalarae). Brooke’s valiant efforts during a pirate siege, however, result in his coronation as Rajah, much to Mahkota’s chagrin.

Brooke’s reign meets Mahkota’s deadly attacks, as well as criminal charges from the British empire, as he seeks to establish the domain as a sovereign nation.

Unfortunately, Edge of the World can’t help but mythologize Brooke’s legacy; doing so merely removes the first White Rajah’s complexity and contradictions. Rather than confronting the difficult question of whether Brooke is a white saviour, the narrative’s superficial interpretation suggests that he is a “benevolent” imperialist simply because, unlike his peers, he does not say racist things out loud.

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Meanwhile, Brooke’s actual policies and government style are mostly ignored, with a romance story and numerous portrayals of horrific native rituals taking precedence.

The relationships between Sarawak and Brooke become woefully simple as Edge of the World increasingly veers towards Apocalypse Now territory. Although Edge of the World is a homage to bygone swashbuckling blockbusters, Brooke deserves a far more nuanced portrayal.

Plot.

The story of the Rajah of Sarawak, James Brooke, who inspired the Rudyard Kipling narrative The Man Who Would Be King and Joseph Conrad’s novel Lord Jim, is based on historical events.

Brooke was a former soldier in the Bengal Army who sailed to Borneo in 1839 while it was still under the control of the Bruneian Sultanate, where he assisted the Sultan of Brunei’s governor (PengiranInderaMahkota, title for the governor) in putting down a local rebellion and then took over as governor of what would become the Raja of Sarawak as his own private kingdom.

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Prior to his appointment as Governor of the new Crown Colony of Labuan, he was knighted by Queen Victoria of England. Brooke’s family dynasty extended three generations and a century.

Production.

After learning about James Brooke from a footnote in a George MacDonald Fraser novel he read in 2009, Rob Allyn became interested in capturing his life. He became fixated with Brooke after doing more research on her. With his sons Conor and Jake, as well as Josie Ho and Conroy Chan, Allyn also produced the picture. In March 2021, Samuel Goldwyn Films purchased US distribution rights. The film will be released in the United Kingdom via British distributor Signature.

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From September to October 2019, principal photography was placed on location in rural Sarawak. The Sarawak Tourism Board assisted in the production of the film. Technical assistance was provided by the Brooke Heritage Trust.

From June 18th, Edge of the World will be available on digital platforms.

 

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