Black Gold (12A)

Starring: Freida Pinto, Antonia Banderas, Riz Ahmed

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

This old-fashioned, foursquare desert epic chronicles, slowly, the rise of oil-rich Arabia.

Amar (Mark Strong) and Nesib (Antonio Banderas) play tribal leaders who reach a truce over disputed territory when Amar hands over his two sons as wards-cum-hostages for Nesib to raise as his own.

The younger son, Auda (Tahar Rahim), is a peaceable type caught between his birth father's integrity and his adoptive father's embrace of the Yankee dollar after oil is struck in the debated land. Not that he should worry – he's struck gold by getting Princess Freida Pinto as his bride.

Internecine conflict becomes the order of the day, though the film makes it hard to know where the battle-lines begin and end. Whoever wrote the script has a preference for bluster where clarity would have been useful: it's the kind of film in which someone shouts, "We'll follow you to the other side of hell!" while failing to provide much clue as to who "we" might be.

Strong and Rahim come out of it with honour intact but Banderas slices the ham with a scimitar, and Pinto does a pretty (and pretty bland) caged-bird impersonation. Expensively shot yet unengaging, it's an object lesson in how not to tell a story.

All you will remember from it is sand, lots and lots of... sand.