The Sand Pebbles ★★½

Psychologically heavy (in comparison to the status quo, at least) war film set on a Navy ship anchored in China in the 1920s begins and ends well; its initial premise of an outsider (Steve McQueen) rubbing uneasily with an established, informal order is gripping, and the bleak, chaotic conclusion is a welcome note against the usual cheerleading hysteria. But the whole enterprise pointlessly runs three hours and does little of value with its time, meandering through several dull subplots, the most consequential of which regarding Richard Attenborough's affair with a Chinese trafficking victim (Marayat Andriane) owes quite a bit to the equally interminable Sayonara. It's never particularly terrible, but it does demonstrate what a dead end the '60s Hollywood obsession with gargantuan epic-sized running times was, even when paired with a small "human" story like this. McQueen is very good, unsurprisingly.