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Stars: Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Gael Garcia Bernal, Alice Braga

Director: Fernando Meirelles

An epidemic of blindness sweeps the city in this provocative but never really believable sci-fi drama. Victims of 'the white sickness' - they see milky nothing rather than black - are herded together into increasingly filthy wards within a compound whose walls are guarded by soldiers.

A doctor's wife (Moore) is determined to stay with her blind husband (Ruffalo) and manages to hide her ability to see from the others, at least to begin with. Within these appalling conditions, the leader of Ward 3 (Bernal), who has a gun and a thirst for power, seizes control of the food (how?) and demands first valuables from the other wards - then their women.

Full of darkness and half-seen figures, this is a lengthy picture that never quite draws you into the plight of its sightless sufferers. More interesting are the later scenes when Moore, Ruffalo and a handful of survivors find themselves freed into a city where the blind lead the blind and looting is widespread for those who can find food not in tins.

Performances are competent, special plaudits going to Danny Glover as a man who could only see out of one eye to begin with, and Maury Chaykin as an already-blind accountant who sides with Bernal's snarling gang. The end strikes a slightly unconvincing note of hope.

David Quinlan

Canada/Brazil/Uruguay/Japan 2008. UK Distributor: Focus Features. Technicolor/Megacolor.
121 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 15 Nov 2008