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Black Gold


Stars: Tahar Rahim, Antonio Banderas, Mark Strong, Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed, Corey Johnson

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Welcome back to a land of palaces, flashing swords, castles, colourful turbans and such dialogue as 'Tears are a waste of water'. In the 50s, this desert epic might have starred Tony Curtis, in the 70s, perhaps, Omar Sharif (and on a grander scale). At any rate, it's the early 20th century, and the setting is the Yellow Belt, somewhere in Arabia.

Rival Bedouin chieftains Banderas and Strong have a fought a bloody war which ends with Banderas victorious and taking Strong's sons as hostage, at the same time declaring the Yellow Belt a no man's land between them,

The younger son (Rahim, from A Prophet) grows up to be as bookish as his rimless specs would indicate, but does fall in love with Banderas's daughter (job-lot exotica Pinto) who tells him he's 'clever and sensitive'. But, when oil is discovered on the Yellow Belt and his brother (Ahmed) is killed trying to escape Banderas's clutches, Rahim must add military cunning to cleverness and sensitivity when Strong asks him to head a decoy force in a plan to invade Banderas's kingdom.

Battles, camels, thirst, veils and inspirational leadership - all 'eastern' life is here. Banderas and Strong create well-crafted characters, while Rahim does what he can with his bookworm-turned-warrior. Pinto is strictly eye candy and must be chafing at such roles, much as did Piper Laurie in days of yore.

The film has a 12A certificate, but is quite suitable for older junior schoolers.

David Quinlan

France/Italy 2011. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Duboicolor.
125 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 19 Feb 2012