The experiences of a New York Times reporter and his native interpreter in Cambodia during and after the Khmer Rouge takeover. This 1984 British production isn't bad as long as no one is speaking English: director Roland Joffe's visualization of the strife-torn landscape is convincing and disturbing, and as the Cambodian left behind in the American pullout, Dr. Haing S. Ngor has a commanding stoic resolve. But as soon as Sam Waterston, as the guilt-ridden Timesman, takes over, the screen is swamped by a bathetic, self-preening sententiousness. The low point is a New York sequence in which Waterston puts some Puccini on his stereo, pops his personal (custom-made?) videocassette of Cambodian atrocities into his video recorder, and goes into a heavy voice-over recounting the crimes of Amerika. Didacticism doesn't get much cruder than this, yet the emphasis of the sequence is on Waterston's exquisitely tortured conscience—it's there to demonstrate the profound, compassionate depths of his humanity. John Malkovich redeems the round-eye contingent with an eccentric, creative turn as a posthippie photographer. With Craig T. Nelson, Bill Paterson, and Athol Fugard. 141 min.
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