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Stars: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi, Elle Fanning, Mohammad Akhzam, Harriet Walter, Michael Maloney

Director: Alejandro Gonzales Iñárittu

An ambitious film in which four stories from far-off lands inter-connect. In Japan, a deaf-mute adolescent (Kikuchi) desperately seeks sex and affection by any means. Her inattentive father, whose wife committed suicide, has given up hunting and presented his rifle to a Moroccan guide, who sells it to a goat-farmer to kill jackals.

Alas, the farmer's sons use it for target practice and, not thinking it could reach that far, fire at a distant tourist bus, critically wounding Susan (Blanchett), on holiday with estranged husband Richard (Pitt). They spend days in a local village waiting for help while, in the surrounding desert, police hunt the shooter.

The last segment concerns Richard's Mexican nanny (Barraza) who, against his orders, takes his children across the border to attend her son's wedding. Naturally disaster follows, and nanny and children end up exhausted in the desert.

Perhaps the director is saying that we all spend time lost in deserts of our own making and, though he does it at considerable length, his film still has moments of emotive power, especially when Pitt and Blanchett reconcile as they lie together on a barren floor; when the desperate (illegal) nanny is told she will be deported; or when the Moroccan kids and their father are finally cornered by the cops.

At other times, your concentration wavers, and the sonorous Japanese section - disconnected from the rest - is notably the least successful.

David Quinlan

USA/Mexico 2006. UK Distributor: Paramount. Colour by De Luxe.
143 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 13 Jan 2007