A beautiful, colorful movie which suffers from a scattered plot and lack of emotional incisiveness.
The camera work is gorgeous at times, capturing the sullen beauty of the Malian desert. The colors, so vibrant and beautiful, paint a stunning picture of this desert landscape.
But the film lacks emotional verve, spreading its gaze over an array of characters without focusing with intent on a specific character or theme. The shepherd, who could be called the most central character of the movie, has an eventful story arc whose emotional power is blunted. The open-ended nature of the film's ending, rather than inspiring us to consider and question, seems like a cheap cop-out for a shoddy ending.
These criticisms might seem a little harsh but given how beautiful and full of potential Timbuktu is, I would love to see the director's visual canniness combined with a more emotionally charged script.