A doctor (Federico Luppi) visits devastated communities in a hypothetical Latin American country in search of former students, whom he slowly discovers have been assassinated. He also meets up with an army deserter (Damian Delgado), who initially takes him hostage but ends up accompanying him from site to site. Flashbacks to horrors in which the kidnapper ambivalently participated as a soldier seem designed to make him sympathetic, but calculated framing and editing reveal exactly how writer-director-editor John Sayles faked the action in the most shocking of these, making the scene little more than smugly manipulative. Though he relies heavily on metaphysical tropes for profundity and some pretentious American tourists for comic relief, he seems to want us to contemplate real suffering—but the self-righteous tone of this elaborate 1997 production prevents this. 128 min.