Waiting for the Barbarians (2019) Movie Review

Director: Ciro Guerra

Writer: J.M. Coetzee (Screenplay) J.M. Coetzee (Novel)

Starring: Mark Rylance, Johnny Depp, Robert Pattinson, Gana Bayarsaikhan, Greta Scacchi, David Dencik

Plot: A Magistrate working in a distant outpost begins to question his loyalty to the empire.

Runtime: 1 Hour 52 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Slow & Uneventful

Story: Waiting for the Barbarians starts as we meet the Magistrate (Rylance) on an outpost in the frontier for the English Empire, he has spent time getting to know the locals, learning that both sides just want peace, but Colonel Joll (Depp) arrival changes thing, as he sees the natives as savage barbarians that are a threat to the empire.

After Joll’s events, the Magistrate tries to fix things, which includes returning a girl taken and tortured, trying to do the right thing, which is against the wishes of the empire.

Thoughts on Waiting for the Barbarians

Characters – Magistrate runs the outpost, he has kept peace between the two sides with his calm nature, he sees people as people not an enemy or a threat, just people looking to survive, he is against violence and will risk everything to make this happen. Colonel Joll inspects the outpost, he sees anyone who isn’t part of the empire as a threat that needs to be eliminated, his ideas are opposed to the Magistrate’s which will see him use his position of power to get what he wants from the situation. Officer Mandel is the one that distributes punishment, he enjoys doing this more than most men. The Girl is one of the victims of the punishment, one that Magistrate wants to fix becoming attached too during this time.

PerformancesThis is a film with a wonderful cast in Mark Rylance, Johnny Depp and Robert Pattinson who we all know could lead any film with ease, only here they are given very little to work with, Rylance is the standout, with his calm performance, while Depp gets caught up in the middle of trying to be edgy and ending up looking odd, with Pattinson never given enough time to show the unhinged character getting unleashed.

StoryThe story here follows a Magistrate in a frontier outpost, one that hasn’t seen any problems in his outpost until it is caused by the people above him, he sees the change in environment, which shows his stance will see him become the problem to the empire. This story is cut up into seasons which do show the change in tone within the outpost, the mindset of the rivalry between the two sides. The film does have a very slow pace, which does seem to extend scenes for no reason. We are left wanting a lot more from this story, which feels like it wants to give us.

SettingsThe film keeps most of the film inside the outpost, it shows how the community has come together but still shows the different structure within the classes.


Scene of the Movie – The journey.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Too many plot holes.

Final Thoughts Very slow movie that seems to miss the action it wants to promise, only to focus on the bigger problems with how the empire tried to change what they discovered.

Overall: Too Slow.

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