CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 12A
  • Drama
  • 2011

Black Gold

Black Gold

Synopsis

A young Arab prince is torn between two fathers, two outlooks on life and two sides of a war in Jean-Jacques Annaud's drama set at the start of the 1930s oil boom. Starring Antonio Banderas

About

The Muppets recently came under criticism by a Fox Business Channel pundit for being "anti-oil". But perhaps his ire would have been better directed at Black Gold. Whether or not Kermit's froggy shadow looms over this epic drama, set around the discovery of oil during the 1930s, its plot is extremely timely and its themes pretty controversial.

To launch straight into a critique of the film would be unfair, and to deny director Jean-Jacques Annaud and producer Tarak Ben Ammar their due for what they were attempting: a resurrection of an epic style from the 'Golden Age' of Hollywood and a presentation of Islamic culture not often seen in Western blockbusters. Despite these lofty intentions it falls very short, and their dreams of a whimsical epic are lost somewhere in the sand dunes of the (admittedly striking) Qatari landscape.

The tale of a shy Arab prince raised by his father's enemy, a beguiling princess and their warring families may sound romantic, but somehow Menno Meyjes' script gets it all wrong. Losing sight of what was important in Hans Reusch's source novel The Great Thirst - i.e. human morality - Black Gold flounders after a so-so opening. An appalling pace leaves the film in the desert for far too long, totally setting aside the character development that was just starting to blossom. Crucially, at this point you're still not really sure what point is being made or whether you should support Prince Auda's allegiance to the more conservative of his two patriarchs.

But at least the prince, played by Tahar Rahim with doe-eyed sadness, seems more-or-less like a real person - it's Antonio Banderas who acts like the cackling villain from a family adventure movie. If he missed the memo that this was a serious film, so did the sound production team who saw fit to provide a chirpy, playful score that may as well be from The Mummy franchise and sits uncomfortably over the film like oil on water. It's all rather ramshackle, with characters explaining key plot points or information about the Islamic faith purely for the audience's sake.

Given the lack of momentum, the film drags itself across the finish line leaving a fair few plot strands to dangle in the breeze. It's difficult to truly condemn a film that started out as a twinkle in the eye of an idealistic young man, but Annaud has cherry-picked the worst of Hollywood's epics (boring battles, pomposity, style over substance) and none of the good. Where did that love story go for a whole hour? What about the otherworldly beauty of that desert citadel, why can't we see more of that? Given the blood that has been shed over both oil and religion, this was a film that needed a firmer hand.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Mark Strong, Antonio Banderas, Tahar Rahim, Freida Pinto
  • Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

In a nutshell

It might look good but it's an anachronism that totally loses its way in the desert. Given the director's enthusiasm, Black Gold should have sparkled.

by Terry Mulcahy

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 Wish I Was Here

    Wish I Was Here

    Zach Braff writes, directs and stars in his belated second feature about a man who begins to re-examine the relationships in his life after his father falls ill

  • Film4 A Walk Among The Tombstones

    A Walk Among the Tombstones

    Ex-New York cop turned unlicensed private detective Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson) hunts down two ruthless kidnappers, who target the wives of mid-level drug dealers with ready cash

  • Film4 Neighbouring Sounds

    Neighbouring Sounds on Film4

    Life in a middle-class Brazilian neighbourhood changes upon the arrival of an independent private security firm in Kleber Mendonca Fliho's assured debut on Film4

  • Film4 Ferris Bueller's Day Off

    Wheels In Motion Season On Film4

    It's a parade of motorcycles, trains and automobiles on Film4 as the Wheels In Motion Season gets rolling

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Joe Cunningham's 10 recommendations for LFF 14

    Unfortunately I haven¿t been jet setting around the world this year to the various exciting international film festivals, but that¿s what makes the London Film Festival¿s compilation approach to progr

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Michael Leader's 11 recommendations for LFF 2014

    One of the best things about the London Film Festival¿s smorgasbord approach to programming is that, amongst the world premieres and gala screenings, there¿s an eclectic collection of exciting films o

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share