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Johnny Depp in Waiting for the Barbarians

While theaters may be closed, we're actually seeing more than a few new movies coming out this week, and one of the more interesting has to be Waiting for the Barbarians. The new movie hitting Blu-ray and VOD stars Johnny Depp, Robert Pattinson, and Mark Rylance and with a cast like that, you'll certainly want to stand up and take notice. And the cast, by most accounts, is solid, though there are some other issues here that might be dealbreakers for some viewers.

Waiting for the Barbarians is based ed on the novel of the same name by J.M. Coetzee, who also handled the screenplay, and it deals with an unnamed outpost in a fictional Empire where Mark Rylance's character is trying to keep his head down and do his job when Johnny Depp's Colonol shows up and starts looking for terrorists. The lack of detail about who these people are, who are the colonizers and who are the colonized, is clearly intended to get a point across, but there are some differences among critics as far as how successful that message is.

The San Francisco Chronicle praises most of the performances, but does so more or less in a vacuum, as the reviewer found the film to be overly long and full of material that was simply unnecessary, though he wouldn't want to tell the screenwriter that...

Would you want to be the one to tell the winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature that his screenplay is so boring it could sedate an elephant? I wouldn’t, because he might reply, “Actually, the problem is that you’re a moron.”

And while Johnny Depp and Robert Pattinson may put forward solid performances in Waiting for the Barbarians, the problem with that, according to Flickering Myth, is that neither of them is actually in the movie very much. If you're watching the movie for them you'll likely be disappointed, which might be too bad because there is more to appreciate in the film...

Yet if you’re able to accept this, there is a stark, efficient beauty to the film. Oscar-winning veteran cinematographer Chris Menges ironically teases a sense of time and place in a movie which, narratively speaking, doesn’t have one by design. Nevertheless, Menges’ beautiful work is backed up by evocative Moroccan shooting locations and first-rate production design, ensuring the end result feels at all times authentic as a piece of adjacent history. And don’t sleep on Giampiero Ambrosi’s haunting score, either.

A movie like Waiting for the Barbarians certainly has a message to get across. So much of the movie is so paper-thin, the characters have little depth, the setting is no descript. All to make way for the allegory of it all. A story like that isn't going to work for everybody but as Movie Nation says, if that is your bag, you'll appreciate Waiting for the Barbarians...

You have to have a high tolerance for characters as archetypes, for an author channeling Franz Kafka in his dismay at the misdirected, misguided and misanthropic machinery of state, to embrace a movie such at this.

Of course, as Punch Drunk Critics points out, the allegory may hit a little close to home for some...

Just looking at it from a U.S. perspective, Waiting for the Barbarians parallels many terrible aspects of our history.

Waiting for the Barbarians isn't an obvious hit, but neither is it a failure. Clearly people will need to watch this one and draw their own conclusions as this looks like a movie that will work for some but will bore others.

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