DVDizzy.com | Movie Reviews | Search This Site

Three Thousand Years of Longing Movie Review

Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022) movie poster

Three Thousand Years of Longing

Theatrical Release: August 26, 2022 / Running Time: 108 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: George Miller / Writers: George Miller, Augusta Gore (screenplay); A.S. Byatt (short story)

Cast: Idris Elba (Djinn), Tilda Swinton (Alithea Binnie), Alyla Browne (Alithea Binnie), Ammito Lagum (Queen of Sheba), Nicolas Mouawad (King Solomon), Matteo Bocelli (Prince Mustafa), Lachy Hulme (Suleiman the Magnificent), Megan Gale (Hurrem)

Australia's George Miller has the most fascinatingly offbeat and unpredictable career of any filmmaker I've ever encountered. Miller rose to prominence at the end of the 1970s for writing and directing the dystopian action flick Mad Max, which would make a star out of leading man Mel Gibson. Miller followed that international hit with two sequels, both starring Gibson, and then he worked sporadically within the confines of Hollywood, serving as a director for hire on 1987's The Witches of Eastwick and directing, co-writing, and producing the Academy Award-nominated, commercially underperforming true drama Lorenzo's Oil (1992).

It's at this point when Miller's career largely stops making sense. He would produce and co-write Babe (1995), a family film set on a farm which would become a critical favorite and Best Picture nominee at the Academy Awards. Three years later, Miller took over the director's chair for the sequel Babe: Pig in the City, which Gene Siskel famously named the best movie of 1998 over Saving Private Ryan and Life Is Beautiful. The Babe movies could not be further in tone, style, and target audience from Miller's Max Max trilogy. Over the next fifteen years, Miller wrote, directed, and produced just two films: Happy Feet (2006), the rare Best Animated Feature Oscar winner not to come from Pixar, and its much-maligned, commercially disappointing sequel Happy Feet Two (2011).

If Miller's career ended there, you could almost wrap your head around it. A few other filmmakers, most notably John Hughes, have moved to family fare after getting their break with more mature fare. But then, in 2015, the year he turned 70, Miller rebooted his old postapocalyptic franchise. And instead of being a Boomer's feeble attempt to recapture the thrills of his youth, Mad Max: Fury Road became a critical sensation and box office phenomenon. Count me among the very few critics who can't understand how the strange and off-putting two-hour car chase through the desert became embraced as the new gold standard for modern cinema, but Miller suddenly had the attention and the respect of the industry he hadn't had much pull in for decades.

While the moviegoing world patiently awaits Miller's follow-up in his signature Warner Bros. franchise, the 2024-slated prequel Furiosa starring Anya Taylor-Joy as a younger version of Charlize Theron's Fury Road heroine, Miller has added another credit to his baffling filmography in Three Thousand Years of Longing, a creative and compelling standalone fantasy romantic drama which might just be the best thing he's made.

Present-day academic Alithea (Tilda Swinton) and an millenniae-old Djinn (Idris Elba) form a special relationship in George Miller's "Three Thousand Years of Longing."

Adapting A.s. Byatt's 1994 short story "The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye", Longing opens with our attentions fixed on Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton), a British academic in Istanbul to speak at a literary conference. There, a decorative lamp she obtains from an antiquities marketplace is revealed to hold a Djinn, or, to those of us that grew up with Aladdin, a genie. Alithea's Djinn (Idris Elba) is a formidable presence who barely fits inside her nice hotel room.

Being an educated and thoughtful woman, Alithea is reluctant to make any of the three wishes she is owed by unleashing the Djinn. She knows that for a multitude of centuries, wish-granting stories have existed largely to illustrate the dangers of wishing. The best of intentions can easily backfire. "Be careful what you wish for"? Alithea is, to an extreme, which allows us plenty of time to hear about the Djinn's various experiences over the eponymous three millenniae.

The Djinn tells of how his reciprocated love for the Queen of Sheba got him imprisoned in the bottle by King Solomon. His luck is not much better as a master to a young concubine in the Sultan's palace nor in servitude to other flawed royals. The stories do not give Alithea much hope for a favorable resolution to her theoretically fortunate predicament. She wishes for the Djinn's love, which unfolds in a complicated manner, though not necessarily one you foresee.

Pointy disfigured ears and glowing figures reveal the Djinn (Idris Elba) to be an otherworldly ally to Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton).

There is much to marvel at in Miller's latest film. Swinton and Elba are powerful co-leads, each playing to their strengths. The concept of wishes, historically relegated to fables and family fare, is given a thoughtful, historical dissection that respects the intelligence of the viewer.

Alas, the nature of the film's design, hedges upon there being suitable weight and intrigue to the stories that the Djinn shares from his past. The best movies centered on characters telling stories, like Big Fish and Life of Pi, require those stories be supremely compelling and told in a manner you can get fully lost in. The Djinn's tales are often interesting, yet dizzying. They are presented in the past, without immediacy, and never upstage the stellar present-day dynamic of our two leads, despite being given enough attention for just that.

The result is a fragmented presentation much easier to like than love. When the film settles on exploring Alithea and Djinn's contemporary romance, it seems to have lost sight of its allure and fails to turn the context of Djinn's past experiences into well a backdrop of any consequence. The final act is jarringly disjointed from the rest of the film, as Miller and co-screenwriter Augusta Gore suddenly call attention to the prejudices of two neighbors we're only now meeting.

Longing is consistently visually stunning. The imagination that Miller has brought to his desert thrill rides is easier to appreciate here, right from the start with an airport encounter with a would-be baggage handler that seizes your attention. The highs and lows of Djinn's past are also brought to life with agreeable flair, which goes a long way to making up for their narrative shortcomings. It's disappointing that Miller can't stick the landing, as the extremely fascinating foundation he develops struggles to reach a logical and fulfilling end. Nonetheless, I personally would muchc prefer to take this journey again than try (and fail) to see the appeal in Fury Road and his older Max Max films.

Related Reviews:

Now in Theaters: BeastHonk for Jesus. Save Your Soul | Now Streaming: PinocchioThor: Love & Thunder
Directed by George Miller: Mad Max: Fury RoadHappy Feet Two
Tilda Swinton: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe | Idris Elba: Dark Tower
InkheartAladdin (1992)Aladdin (2019)Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

DVDizzy.com | Movie Reviews | Search This Site

DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed August 26, 2022.

Text copyright 2022 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2022 Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.