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I Bet You Didn't See... Waiting for the Barbarians


In a fictitious, unnamed land, an Empire wars with desert nomads on the frontier of their empire. Frontier towns, run by administrators, are used as the first line of defence for the Capital.

Colonel Joll (Johnny Depp), runs an operation against the nomadic "barbarians". He and his company of soldiers venture out into the desert and collect a group of "barbarians" to interrogate, using the Empire's "procedures". These are principally torture and coercion.

Rylance as the Magistrate

The town's Magistrate (Mark Rylance) leads a peaceful relationship with the nomads, mainly not getting involved with them until he absolutely has to. He knows the true nature of the Empire's "war", but he has no power to stop it.

Officer Mandel (Robert Pattinson) rides into town while the Magistrate is leading his men to take a young nomad girl back to her people. This leads to questionable accusations against the Magistrate being accused of treason and when he tries to interfere with the public beatings of nomadic people he himself is beaten and it deepens the accusations against him. His ostracization from society begins the wind up for the film, and the brutal ending.

Pattinson's introduction as Mandel

The film is a clever reflection of the Colonist American wars on the Native Americans. but also poignant of the current conflict in Eastern Europe, in my own personal opinion. Johnny Depp is sinister and threatening, exuding menace and power simply by his presence and voice. It was a great example of his flexibility as an actor. Robert Pattinson plays his nasty twisted character vividly, while Mark Rylance is beautiful in his role as peace keeper, even though he has no power or control.

Depp as Colonel Joll

The film runs with very little music, and reasonable little action, although what action there is is brutal. It's clever, albeit slow in a few places. It is very smart in making certain aspects slightly uncertain. Are the wooden artifacts really ancient, or was the Magistrate communicating with someone to keep the peace? Was he mimicking and patronising the Colonel or not? He never lies any other time in the film, so did he then? As he soldiers seem to get along with the Colonel's men later, were the accusations true, or fabricated? I think people might be split.

It was certainly interesting.

Directed by: Ciro Guerro

Screenplay by: J. M. Coetzee

Based on: "Waiting for the Barbarians" by J. M. Coetzee

Starring: Johnny Depp, Mark Rylance, Robert Pattinson, Harry Melling, Gana Bayarsaikhan

Release Date: August 7, 2020

My Rating: 6/10

"They protect your eyes from the Sun. Stop your from squinting. See? No wrinkles."

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