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Naomi Watts supplies the grit and soul in this adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's novel. A stifled London flapper in the 1920s, she marries a bacteriologist for convenience and follows her stolid husband (Edward Norton, dialing it down) to Shanghai. After she launches a torrid affair with the caddish vice-consul for Great Britain (Liev Schreiber), her spouse retaliates by hauling her along to the remote inland site of a cholera outbreak. This handsome period drama is a big step up for director John Curran (We Don't Live Here Anymore), who shot in China with predominantly Chinese crews. Norton and Schreiber seem too American to be English colonials, but Watts navigates a challenging transformation (in a role first played by Greta Garbo in 1934), and there are sturdy performances by Anthony Wong, Toby Jones, and Diana Rigg. In English and subtitled Mandarin. PG-13, 125 min.

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