Scripted by South African Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee from his eponymous novel, Colombian director Ciro Guerra’s fifth feature—his first English-language film, following the ecstatic triumphs of Embrace of the Serpent (2015) and Birds of Passage (2018)—is handsomely realized but otherwise inert. An always affecting Mark Rylance stars as the benevolent Magistrate of an unnamed colony of “the Empire.” Colonel Joll (Johnny Depp in a shockingly lackluster performance) arrives and declares war on the “barbarians,” who have heretofore been peaceful; meanwhile, the Magistrate develops feelings for one of the nomads (Gana Bayarsaikhan) and returns her to her people. After he does so—and as a result of openly questioning the need for barbarism towards the so-called barbarians—the Magistrate becomes a target of the occupiers’ ire. Robert Pattison plays one of the soldiers, though none of the star power can redeem this otherwise meandering drama. Rylance’s performance does stand out, per usual, and Chris Menges’ cinematography is stunning; in theory it’s an affecting story about the horrors of imperialism, but an audiobook version of Coetzee’s novel would probably move faster.