(2002)4Todd KristelJohn Malkovich's debut as a feature-film director is a combination of political thriller, police procedural, and love story. Slow and methodical, the film fares better at developing mood (with considerable help from cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine, who seems fond of dim lighting) than with building suspense or political commentary. Indeed, the film's terrorist organization remains an enigma even though the screenplay, which was adapted by Nicholas Shakespeare from his novel, was inspired by the real-life search for Abimael Guzman, the founder of the "Shining Path" terrorist group. The plot is rather vague at times and the characters remain somewhat distant and inaccessible. The major exception is Javier Bardem as Rejas. He delivers an excellent restrained performance in which the film's story line unfolds subtlety on his face. Unfortunately, he does not have a great deal of romantic chemistry with Laura Morante, although their mutual attraction seems relatively plausible given the contrast between Rejas and his wife, a poorly developed character whose relationship with him remains somewhat inexplicable. The film is sometimes interesting and often evocative, but it doesn't quite hold up as an emotionally engaging story.