As 1997's other Dalai Lama film, Seven Years in Tibet was almost bound to look lackluster when compared to Martin Scorsese's Kundun. Even apart from that film, however, it's none too memorable. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud, in his third collaboration with cinematographer Robert Fraisse, has an uncanny knack as always for beautiful location photography. Otherwise, this is a workmanlike venture that relays the facts in attractive fashion but has difficulty getting at issues beyond them. Viewers will likely leave the film with a better sense of what happened, but not much clearer a notion of why it happened or why it mattered. Kundun may occasionally have suffered from shrouding itself in a mystic veil, but just a dose of its spirituality would have helped Tibet considerably. Earnestness and educational value can only take a film so far, a fact Seven Years in Tibet illustrates in a hurry.
by Keith Phipps review