Waiting for the Barbarians is the upcoming drama from Ciro Guerra (Embrace of the Serpent / El abrazo de la serpiente), and is the highly-regarded Colombian director’s first English-language feature. He’s assembled an impressive main cast to mark the occasion, as it features the Oscar-winning Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Johnny Depp (in what seems like his first serious role in forever), and new Batman Robert Pattinson (who was superb in The Lighthouse). And if that’s not enough, it’s based on the award-winning 1980 novel of the same name by Nobel Prize in Literature-winning South African author J. M. Coetzee, who also wrote the script.
The plot synopsis is as follows:
The Magistrate [Mark Rylance] of an isolated frontier settlement on the border of an unnamed empire looks forward to an easy retirement until the arrival of Colonel Joll [Johnny Depp], whose task it is to report on the activities of the ‘barbarians’ and on the security situation on the border. Joll conducts a series of ruthless interrogations, which leads the Magistrate to question his loyalty to the empire.
Let’s take a look:
It’s an incredibly blunt critique of imperialism and colonialism, and the people – those with both good and bad intentions – who operate within its system. Some people may decry the lack of subtlety, but it’s rather necessary when you still get people defending the institution. I remain hopeful that most people won’t tell someone who’s been abused that they should focus on the nice present their abuser gave them as a plus point to being abused.
That said, I think this is a movie that’ll you’ll appreciate more for the performances, and they do look damn good. Rylance is excellent as the caring and compassionate magistrate, while Depp is his complete opposite as the cold and cruel enforcer.
What do you think?
Waiting for the Barbarians is due for release via digital and on-demand on 7 August. It also stars Gana Bayarsaikhan, Greta Scacchi, David Dencik, and Sam Reid.
Last Updated: June 25, 2020