After watching this film, Judge Ryan Keefer wondered if he could rip out his eyes and look into acreage prices on the land of the blind.
"What's better than a big juicy steak?"
Land of the Blind is a film with Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes (Schindler's List), a longtime familiar name in Donald Sutherland (Pride & Prejudice), and a familiar TV face in Lara Flynn Boyle (The Practice). Written and directed by Robert Edwards, who had previously been responsible for some short films. So why hasn't anyone heard about this film and is it any good?
Facts of the Case
Joe (Fiennes) is a soft spoken guard at a prison, whose most recent tour finds him guarding a political prisoner named Thorne (Sutherland), who, as a form of protest, decides to write some sayings on his prison wall using his own waste. Joe starts to develop a bond with the prisoner, who used to be close to the country's president, and was familiar with the current leader Maximillian (Tom Hollander, A Good Year), before Maximillian imprisoned him and took him away from his family. Thorne has been in prison for five years by this point and started to become a catalyst to any underground resistance movement. As part of a series of various moves designed to make Maximillian more appealing, Thorne is eventually released from prison, and Joe plays a part in Maximillian's assassination at the hands of Thorne. Thorne takes control of the country and asks Joe to do something that he refuses to do, and Joe quickly finds himself betrayed as a result.
I didn't know how to start this review after I had watched Land of the Blind. It was the first review that I've done where I wasn't exactly sure where to start. Sure, watching it left me speechless, but not necessarily in a good way. Then as I was watching A Bronx Tale on TV recently, and aside from the obvious inference that Robert DeNiro's feature directorial debut is good and that Edwards' debut isn't, there was a lightning bolt of clarity, as clear as the nose on my face: wasted talent.
Now even as a Republican, I find that the Bush administration certainly is fodder for all kinds of filmmakers, some results have been good, and some haven't. Some political films that have satirized current events have been pretty funny, like Wag the Dog. The problem with Land of the Blind is that if there's a satirical element to make fun of, it doesn't pull the jokes off with a lot of grace or timing. In fact, it's done in a somewhat mean-spirited manner. Even in a "target rich environment" like today's government, all we hear is the occasional quote about "the hearts and minds thing" while Maximillian, who is the son of the now deceased glorious former leader, spends his time editing films and living a somewhat sexually depraved lifestyle. Bush is evil, we get it. The press in the film always transition to an advertisement for an upcoming show or relying on topical biographical information on a politician. The press is biased and owned by large corporations, we get it.
Now overall, Edwards' story and direction are capable. Wait, let me rephrase that. The story is muddled, but the direction and vision aren't all that bad. But the actors almost sleepwalk through their performances. For instance, Fiennes' mumbling has either got something to do with portraying the oppressive nature of a world in the not too distant future, or perhaps he realized once he got to the set that the film had radically changed and he wanted to quietly disassociate himself from the project. And as for Sutherland, I think he must be part of some actors' club that only makes anti-establishment films. No offense Donald, I'd give more credit to your Christmas tree-fighting son who works on the TV show than you at this point, your appearance in any of these films is predictable and stupid.
The overall picture, however, is still one of wasted talent. The appearance of Fiennes, while surprising (he looks like an extra from Ridley Scott's Apple commercial from the 1980s) is underdone. The supporting performance from Boyle is something that anyone could have done. Sutherland's turn as the soon-to-be prophet is silly (equal parts Jesus and Bobby Sands at times in the story), Hollander is okay, but the script leaves everyone disillusioned and phoning it in.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There are some moments when the film does have some satirical or humorous moments, but they're few and far between. Even as dark, cynical comedy, it's not that funny. I really tried to give this movie as much of a fair break as possible, but it never really did anything.
If you're looking for a film that takes swipes at the current state of political affairs, go rent V for Vendetta or something. I would recommend checking out Land of the Blind if the way they satirized the material was funny or smart, but neither occurs here. This is a disappointment considering some of the major players involved.
Edwards, Fiennes, and Sutherland are found guilty for not doing enough to a film that could have been much better. Court is adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
• Making of Featurette
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