Queen of the Desert – Review

qotdposterQueen of the Desert (2017)
PG-13 | 2h 8min | Biography, Drama, History

In select theaters April 7th 2017 and expanding wide April 14th 2017

Synopsis: A chronicle of Gertrude Bell’s life, a traveler, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer, and political attaché for the British Empire at the dawn of the twentieth century.

Review: Matt Mungle

I would like to know the full story of this film’s journey. QUEEN OF THE DESERT was originally supposed to release in the winter of 2015. Now a year and a half later we are finally getting a look at this beautifully shot Bio Drama. Beauty is only script deep though and this one has a hard time keeping its footing in the shifting sand. Like Gertrude Bell riding atop a camel this film rides 100% on the shoulders of its lead actress Nicole Kidman.

Gertrude Bell (Kidman) is a fascinating character who certainly deserves a bio pic and there is no better filmmaker than writer/director Werner Herzog to capture the landscape she called home. The vast expanse of desert is stunning and each scene truly fits the definition of “moving picture”. Each frame is an artistic brushstroke of splendid imagery. But even Herzog’s directing can not overcome his own screenplay and too often Kidman seems at a loss as to how to deliver the story.

Bell was a fascinating woman whose wisdom and diplomacy has yet to be topped. When you read of her exploits you soon realize why this film is so disjointed. To fully capture her accomplishments and endeavors you would need more than a 2-hour narrative. So the end result is several disconnected short stories that never flow smoothly one to another. We see Bell in many of her most memorable conversations and meetings but none of them feel cohesive. So though each moment is intriguing it doesn’t feel like a complete film. And each of the grand moments are segued by a beautiful romp through the desert.

Other famous names pop up in this film with equally famous actors portraying them. Charles Doughty-Wylie (Damian Lewis), T.E. Lawrence (Robert Pattinson), and Winston Churchill (Christopher Fulford) are the most noteworthy. There is no doubt though that this is Gertrude’s story and Herzog relies on Kidman to carry it out.

QUEEN OF THE DESERT is rated PG-13 for brief nudity and some thematic elements. It gets 3 out of 5 narrow escapes. The character is one of the most intriguing to come around but sadly I am not sure this movie, or any for that matter, could truly capture it.