Friday Film Review-- 'Waiting For The Barbarians'
A new film is about injustice, imperialism, and Johnny Depp as a stone-cold SOB. Rick Brough has this week’s Friday Film Review.
We are heading for a dark, unknown winter. And I’m just talking about movie theaters.
It doesn’t look like audiences will be flocking back to the big screen, despite the attempt this fall with some attractions like “Tenet” and the “Bill and Ted” sequel. James Bond and Wonder Woman have been postponed to next year.
Industry professionals are hoping that the movie palace, like Jason or Michael Myers, just looks dead, and will spring back to life at any moment.
Meanwhile, among the movies available via streaming or Red Box, a new film “Waiting For the Barbarians” is interesting, though not blockbuster material.
The setting is a small outpost, located on what looks like the North African colonial frontier of an unnamed empire. The presiding official, called The Magistrate, is content to preside over the humdrum life of his community, where the toughest part of his job is making Judge Wapner-like decisions over neighbor disputes.
But then Colonel Joll rolls into town. Played by Johnny Depp, he’s cold, white-faced and wears dark glasses, which any “Cool Hand Luke” fan will tell you is bad news.
Working on the philosophy that ‘Pain is truth”, the Colonel scoops up a handful of locals and tortures them to get so-called “evidence” that an uprising is being planned along the frontier by the “Barbarians”.
The Magistrate, who is appalled, and then rebellious, is played by British actor Mark Rylance, who won an Oscar for the film “Bridge of Spies.” His performance gives you mixed emotions. While he comes off as a modestly humane, civilized character, he’s also rather neurotic and so vulnerable you’re waiting for the moment when he gets squashed like a bug.
Depp is a suitably hissable bad guy. The only other star name in the movie, Robert Pattinson, plays one of his lieutenants, but is given un unremarkable role and doesn’t make it remarkable.
The screenplay is by South African writer J. M. Coetzee, from his novel, is directed by a Colombian film-maker, Ciro Guerra and gorgeously photographed by Chris Menges.
The story, about the arrogance, brutality and ultimate folly of imperialism isn’t very remarkable. The interesting slant is telling this epic-sized tale while never leaving the outpost or the surrounding desert. It’s the point of view, I guess, of the bug always in danger of being squashed.
“Waiting For the Barbarians” is quietly incendiary—and, of course, ironic about who the “barbarians” actually are—and scores a three-and-a-half on a scale of five.