Because Rafelson's idiosyncratic account of Burton and Speke's search for the source of the Nile is concerned not with the destination but with the journey, he allows the narrative to be sidetracked by a series of colourful vignettes: a lion attack, the placating of wary tribesmen with swathes of cloth, and a menacing brush with camp Lord Ngola and his scheming advisor. These episodes reveal much about the Victorian explorers: Burton (Bergin) is a womanising adventurer and anthropologist; Speke (Glen) a shallow opportunist aristocrat with a book contract in his back pocket; and their relationship is further complicated by a hint that Speke harbours an unrequited love for his manly partner. Like any journey, it is more exciting going than coming back, a problem compounded here by a coda about Speke claiming full credit for their joint discoveries (though a lighter note is struck when Burton and Bernard Hill's Dr Livingstone strip off to compare battle scars). Unbounded praise for Roger Deakins' photography, equally at home with the sun-baked African vistas and the dark wood tones of the Royal Geographic Society. Despite longueurs, this handsome epic has a spark of intelligence and a pleasing wit.
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