This is a very odd film. It is often minutely faithful to one of Conrad's most accomplished novels, has a star-studded cast chosen with perfect discrimination to play the parts assigned. The period detail is convincing and there is little that is sensationalising or eccentric. The script is extremely well written and manages the complex chronological shifts of the novel in a cogent and convincing way for the most part. It should be a highly successful enterprise.
Why it is so leaden, the acting so wooden is beyond me. It's as if having assembled this stellar cast, there simply wasn't budget enough to do more than five minutes' rehearsal of each scene. Everyone delivers their lines without conviction, without any real belief in or much understanding of the characters they are playing: it's like a fifth form sight reading a Shakespeare play. Robin Williams acts Robin Williams acting the Professor; Eddie Izzard has the least convincing Russian accent ever heard, Gerard Depardieu is hopelessly uncomfortable as Ossipon and Jim Broadbent has a manic stare which belongs in some other film. The Assistant Commissioner, Winnie and her idiot brother are the best of a bad lot. Although not nearly as physically gross as he should be, Bob Hoskins does his best with Verloc but without Conrad's narrative irony, his character isn't very interesting.
It could never have been a commercial success so why and how this curious enterprise was launched is baffling. Surely if it was worth doing (and it surely was) it should have been done well? Had the budget been spent upon a less expensive cast perhaps the director would have had time to realise the text more compellingly.
The oppressive score by Philip Glass is simply an exercise in narcissism.
In spite of all this, the film will help students studying the novel to grasp its shape and period but they should certainly be advised to read the novel a few times before watching the film. It would be a pity for them to miss the suspense the book generates but which this film so singularly fails to realise.