Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Starring: Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt is badly miscast as the Austrian climber Heinrich Harrer, whose ambition to conquer the Himalayas leads him first to imprisonment in a PoW camp, arrested by British soldiers for being in the wrong place (India) at the wrong time (WWII), and then on to spiritual enlightenment as the trusted friend of the young Dalai Lama.

Pitt admirably withholds any attempt to make Heinrich likeable, permitting us a sudden endearing flash of vulnerability only at the last possible moment. The early scenes are pleasant twaddle, with Pitt wearing chunky sweaters and gargling a lot - or is that his stab at playing Austrian? But Annaud strives so hard for an epic atmosphere that he loses the intimacy which would have at least made the relationship between man and boy marginally touching.


(15) HHH

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Kerry Fox

The makers of Welcome to Sarajevo clearly took another look at The Battle of Algiers before deciding how to play this swift fictionalisation of the experiences of one British television journalist (ITN's Michael Nicholson). Whereas Gillo Pontecorvo's film gave the impression of reconstructed documentary, Winterbottom instead integrates real news footage into the drama.

Where the film really succeeds is in its restless style - it's pared to the bone, and the performances (including Woody Harrelson as an American reporter) are all the more raw for that. See interview, p4.


(15) HHHH

Director: John Duigan

Starring: Sam Rockwell

Duigan repents for the muddle of The Leading Man with his most intriguing film yet: the story of a white-trash loner, Trent (Rockwell), who mows the lawns of his affluent neighbours and befriends a young rich girl, who naturally sees beyond class divides. There are some whimsical and sentimental lapses here, and the screenplay sometimes comes worryingly close to turning Trent into a messiah figure, but the freshness of the performances, and Duigan's crisp portrait of a dislocated community, are very winning.


(nc) HH

Director: Todd Verow

Starring: Michael Gunter

The characters in Dennis Cooper's novels always talk like bad actors, so watching them on the screen becomes a little complicated. But the problem with Verow's adaptation of Cooper's most startling and profound novel is not the cast - it's the way Verow has transformed what was challenging about Frisk (the story of a gay man who believes that murder is the only way you can truly know somebody) into coy soap opera.


(15) HHHH

Director: Gillies Mackinnon

Starring: Jonathan Pryce

Pat Barker's brilliant, moving novel about traumatised soldiers stumbling out of WWI trenches and into psychoanalysis at a military hospital provides the basis for Mackinnon's sensitive film. The director strikes a careful balance between resonating images and performances that are bold enough not to be dwarfed by this bold visual style. Particularly fine are Jonathan Pryce as the psychiatrist whose work is eating into him, and James Wilby as Siegfried Sassoon.


(15) HH

Director: Steve Oedekerk

Starring: Tim Robbins

Tim Robbins plays a put-upon businessman who's having a really bad day - under any other circumstances he probably wouldn't have driven off with the car-jacker who tried to rob him. This strained buddy-comedy sees Robbins just treading water, and it's a pitiful sight.


(15) HH

Director: Pat O'Connor

Starring: Liv Tyler

Predictable drama set in smalltown Fifties America, with Joaquin Phoenix and Billy Crudup as two hormonal youngsters intrigued by the Abbot sisters. O'Connor recycles most of his earlier Circle of Friends to little dramatic effect.


(12) HH

Director: Marco Brambilla

Starring: Alicia Silverstone

After the success of the delightful Clueless, its star, Silverstone, looks a little lost with this comedy about a girl who arranges her own kidnapping to get her rich father's attention.