MOVIE: QUEEN OF THE DESERT
STARRING: NICOLE KIDMAN; JAMES FRANCO; ROBERT PATTINSON; DAMIAN LEWIS
DIRECTED BY: WERNER HERZOG
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Since 2009, legendary director Werner Herzog has dedicated his time to strictly being a documentary filmmaker. His recent films, Into the Inferno, Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World, and 2011's Into the Abyss, have all been stellar. Herzog found a groove, making films that canvas the things in life that are detrimental to humans and nature alike, such as volcanos, technology, and inmates on death row. Now, he brings to the big screen a narrative feature, Queen of the Desert, which is one of his two feature films this year, but does not deliver enough reasons to recommend Herzog stop making documentaries. Queen of the Desert is shockingly amateur, with a lifeless performance from Nicole Kidman and a narrative that feels historically by the numbers.
The film is about the life of Gertrude Bell (Kidman), a British explorer, who set out into the Arab desert to discover the mystery of the vast lands, while becoming a significant person involved in drawing out the geographic map lines. Along the way, she would become involved with various men in different points of her lifes journey, including her first husband Henry Cadogan (James Franco), Charles Doughty-Wylie (Damian Lewis), and the legendary man himself- T.E. Lawrence (Robert Pattinson). She would become an intricate part of bridging the gap between the Arabs and British military, including being a major influence for the British Empire's approach to the region.
A story such as Gertrude Bell's seems to have all the capabilities of being an engaging experience, the problem is, none of the chemistry on screen ever works. Scenes between Kidman and Franco are void of any passion. The looks on their faces are nervous and downright uncomfortable. Herzog seems to be okay with just placing his camera in a spot and expecting the actors to make up for any of the script problems. Unlike other desert journey films such as John Curran's Tracks or David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, there is hardly any real danger in Queen of the Desert. The way this trip is told is as boring as watching a camel sleep. Even the performance from Kidman lacks any true effort. She seems to be coasting.
Oh, and wait till you see Robert Pattinson's performance as Lawrence. He seems happy enough to be dressed in the Arabian costume and expecting that to complete his performance. I am certain that if Mr. Peter O'Toole were still around, he would ask Mr. Herzog to leave the famous Lawrence alone. But alas, if that were the only problem in Queen of the Desert, maybe this film could have been worth our time. It boils down to being just flat out boring.
If there is anything to applaud Queen of the Desert for I guess it would be some of the beautiful locations and top of the line costumes for Kidman to wear. That's about it. I guess you could say that some directors, no matter how great they are can make a dud every once in a while. I just hope Herzog gets back to doing expert documentaries again or at the least next time working with better material. Queen of the Desert should be buried in the sand.
1 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady