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The Last Emperor Director's Cut review

Any film in which the two lead characters spend most of their time alone in a cell was always going to be gruelling, and while this fact-based drama boasts intentions as impeccable as its acting, it's a long haul both on and off screen. You can't help but empathise with the plight of Brian Keenan and John McCarthy, political prisoners who between them spent a decade locked up in Lebanon. Even so, there's a nagging feeling this tale of courage and endurance is a little past its sell-by date.

Limited to a series of claustrophobic interiors, mildly alleviated by periodic flights of fancy, director John Furse relies on his actors - Ian Hart as fiery Irish protestant Keenan versus Linus Roache's urbane Englishman McCarthy - to generate the necessary conflict. Both actors are terrific, and their love/hate relationship with their sometimes kind, often vicious, captors is convincingly sketched. For all that, this is effectively a TV drama whose intense intimacy could easily be mistaken for a lack of ambition.

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