Black Gold aka Day of the Falcon (2011)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Black Gold</strong> aka <strong class="MovieTitle">Day of the Falcon</strong> (2011)

(Video on Demand, June 2013) If you feel that there’s been a dearth of desert-adventure films out there, then take heart in Day of the Falcon’s existence and enjoy a trip to 1930s Arabia for an old-fashioned epic.  Tahar Rahim stars as Prince Auda, a bookworm son who eventually learns to lead an army and uphold progressive values at a time when the West is taking an interest in the oil reserves under the sand.  A co-production involving four countries, Day of the Falcon has a decent budget and a refreshingly earnest viewpoint toward traditional values in the face of western imperialism.  Directed with competence by veteran French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud, the film can be enjoyed for its epic scope, interesting visuals and sympathetic characters.  It’s hardly perfect: there are a few pacing issues, and as much as I like Mark Strong and Antonio Banderas, casting them as warring emirs feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity for ethnicity-appropriate actors.  (The same goes, to a lesser extent, for Freida Pinto, except that she’s sultry enough to make anyone believe that the hero would wage all-out war simply in order to come back home to her.)  Historical parallels with the early days of Saudi Arabia are interesting (albeit not to be taken at face value) and so is the obvious commentary on the dominance of the oil industry in the region.  Parallels with Lawrence of Arabia are obvious, especially considering that the film offers a few desert-war sequences not commonly seen elsewhere in movies.  The stilted dialogues and acting definitely take a back seat to sweep of the film’s adventure.  For a film that probably flew under the radar of most north-American moviegoers, Day of the Falcon definitely qualifies as an underappreciated gem.

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