Movie Review: Black Gold

Two warring tribes, fighting over a piece of land, signs a pact of peace. For everlasting peace, Emir Nesib(Antonio Banderas) takes the two sons of his rival Sultan Amar(Mark Strong) as hostages. The children will grow up as Nesib's sons and both men will not lay any claim on this piece of land. 15 years later in the 1930s, the youngest son Auda(Tahar Rahim) has grown up reading Koran & other books into a wise peace-loving man when Nesib finds black gold hidden inside the land he had forsaken. Soon, this catapults Nesib and Amar into the path of conflict where Auda will come off age reluctantly.

Jean-Jacques Arnaud directs this movie adaptation of a novel by Hans Ruesch. Using the backdrop of oil or black gold, the movie focuses on conflict between two different ideologies followed by two strong-willed men - Nesib and Amar. Nesib is sly and wants to have the best for his people while Amar is old fashioned. Nesib is ready to bend the rules to achieve his goal while Amar does not easily compromise. Nesib believes in buying everything with money while Amar belives nothing bought with money lasts. Auda, brought up in Nesib's household while listening to Amar's advices through letters, is the bridge between these two people. Auda will not be able to make these men friends but he is the future of two kingdoms. It is always interesting to watch the clash between two ideologies with an innocent trapped between it. This provides enough scope for drama. By adding in love, western greed, interpretation of koranic verses etc to the concoction, Jean-Jacques entertains the audience with this movie. The movie is set in the desert and the visuals are enthralling. The dialogues in a poetic style is noteworthy. The music by James Horner helps the movie. While Jean-Jacques scores in portraying the life of the warriors in desert successfully, he fails in the action scenes. This is where he loses an opportunity to elevate this movie into a classic. It is during the battles where Auda, who is perceived as weak, shows his brilliance as a general. Because of the badly executed action scenes, this does not come out well. This is left to imagination of the audience.

Mark Strong delivers a powerful yet restrained performance as Amar. Amar doesn't open up to anyone but observes closely. How he contains himself after meeting his son after 15 years, how he teaches Auda the values of life and how he molds his son into a warrior are what makes this movie captivating. Antonio Banderas as a sly and cunning Nesib is good. But his performance reminds us of his past movies. Tahar Rahim as Auda has to portray the innocent man in the major part of the movie and the wise & war-hardened man during the end of the movie. Tahar succeeds in fulfilling the first need but does not succeed in the second.

Overall, this movie is recommended. If you decide to go for this movie, be aware that is slightly longer than the usual Hollywood movies.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***


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