If one is unprepared to view this film as metaphor one is going to be a detached viewer in a slow staged tour of famous cities taken by a history teacher and her daughter. The conversation by the two is stilted at times and does not rise to a level of much interest. It is only about thirty minutes from the end that the conversation begins to include musings, banters and expectations by other adults. It is still seems artificial and contrived. Only with less than two minutes before the credits flash on does the film create unexpected dramatic tension and the tedious talking inaction yields to a " thriller" outcome. But to reach that point of sudden drama, unless one is a keen and knowledgeable follower of the Director's other films,tries one's patience---even though it is always a pleasure to see Irene Papas and Catherine Deneuve in any picture.
A Talking Picture
Time Out saysNonagenarian Portuguese auteur Oliveira's eccentric fable begins like a low key travelogue. A beautiful academic (Silveira) is taking her young daughter on a Grand Tour through Europe and the Near East, visiting the Acropolis, the Sphinx, Istanbul and various other cultural hotspots. Only gradually does it become apparent that the film is Oliveira's response to the events of 9/11. We listen as the academic sits at table with the sleek and cultured cruise ship captain (another purring performance from Malkovich) and discusses art, language, culture and history with three ever present female guests (Deneuve, Papas and Sandrelli). Then, we learn that there are terrorist bombs aboard and Oliveira's rambling, reflective essay lurches uncomfortably into thriller mode. The extraordinary final shot, at once tragic and absurd, shows that even in his 90s, Oliveira still knows how to wrong foot an audience.