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on 7 January 2006
NOSTROMO is the BBC production of Joseph Conrad's novel of the same title. Set in the second half of the 1800s in the fictional South American backwater of Costaguana, the country's only resource is a silver mine owned and operated by a British entrepreneur. The indigenous people are exploited, naturally.
As the film opens, a local demagogue mounts a popular insurgence against the hated foreigners, during which spasm the mine owner is slaughtered. The storyline quickly moves forward a couple of decades when the owner's son, Charles Gould (Colin Firth), arrives with his wife Emilia (Serena Scott Thomas) to reopen the abandoned mine, make a fortune for the investors, and bring relative prosperity to the local labor pool. Charles is a benevolent exploiter. Gould must accomplish all this in the face of self-serving politicians, greedy army officers turned self-serving politicians, opportunistic banditos, another rebellion, and the disloyalty of a trusted native worker, Nostromo (Claudio Amendola), elevated by Gould to a high level of responsibility. Business as usual in a Third World armpit.
The beauty of the shoot's locations doesn't mitigate the fact that the film is five hours of tedium made possible by a succession of on-screen characters that inspired nothing but yawns.
Somber taciturnity, which was integral to Colin Furth's role as Darcy in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1995), renders Charles just a monumental bore. At least Emilia shows some spirit, but she ultimately has no effect on the outcome of anything.
Nostromo, who's apparently so important to the story that the book and film are given his name, is such an uncharismatic, minor player in the first two reels that by the time he becomes the Great Tragic Figure in the last I didn't care in the slightest.
Dr. Monyghan (Albert Finney), the Has-Been physician that lives in a personally more glorious past, and the venomous snake Colonel Sotillo (Joaquim de Almeida), are marginally interesting for the their first few minutes of respective screen time, then become tiresome because they offer no surprises.
The good friend that loaned me NOSTROMO is aware of my opinion, and called it a "rant". Now that I've put it in writing and made it public, perhaps I'll become a Horrid Person. The bottom line is that any nascent kernel of interest I may have had to read the original Conrad novel was smothered by the torpid pace of this TV miniseries evidently padded with ho-hums to fill a predetermined time slot.
So, that rant went well, don't you think?