Black Gold
dir Jean-Jacques Annaud
scr Menno Meyjes
prd Tarak Ben Ammar
with Tahar Rahim, Antonio Banderas, Mark Strong, Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed, Liya Kebede, Corey Johnson, Akin Gazi, Eriq Ebouaney, Lotfi Dziri, Jan Uddin, Hichem Rostom
release Qat 1.Dec.11, UK 24.Feb.12
11/Qatar 2h20
Black Gold
Prince charming: Rahim

banderas strong pinto
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Black Gold The history of the oil industry in Arabia is reduced to a fast-paced adventure movie in this lively project that probably should have been a TV series. It keeps us thoroughly entertained, but only manages to flesh out a couple of characters.

To bring peace between the two leading kingdoms in 1920s Arabia, Sultan Amar (Strong) allows Emir Nesib (Banderas) to raise his two sons. Younger son Auda (Rahim) grows up as a bookworm with a soft spot for Nesib's daughter Leyla (Pinto), which comes in handy when they are asked to marry to link the two kingdoms. But their fragile treaty is strained when Texans arrive and start to to drill for oil: Nesib rather likes the money, but Amar sees this as a violation of their treaty.

It becomes clear early on that Auda is the right man to lead these two warring nations not only to peace but to prosperity as well. But juggling the disparate interests of greed and tradition isn't going to be easy. Indeed, the film paints Auda as some kind of promised one who's able to be exactly who he needs to be at the right time, whether that's being a loving husband, dutiful son or a military commander who unites the tribes and leads them into battle.

Fortunately, Rahim underplays the role perfectly as an almost reluctant hero. He may be the smartest man in the tent, but he doesn't really want to have greatness thrust upon him. By contrast, Banderas and Strong seem to be chomping on the scenery, even though each of them also finds subtlety in the surging script. Pinto even has a few strong moments in between the scenes when she just bats her eyes and looks stunningly beautiful.

What makes the film a bit frustrating is the way it charges through the story without taking the time to deepen the situation or the characters. This impeccably made film is a rapid-fire sequence of vicious attacks and epically staged battles punctuated with potent dramatic conversations. There isn't a throwaway moment in two and a half hours. Frankly, it would be great to see this stretched out over a 12-part series.

cert 12 themes, strong violence 6.Feb.12

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