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‘Three Thousand Years of Longing’ needed a few more years in the oven 

FILM REVIEW Title: Three Thousand Years of Longing Run time: 1h 48mins Director: George Miller  Cast: Idris Elba, Tilda Swinton  Where: In cinemas now Rating: 2.5/5

Three Thousand Years of Longing had all the ingredients for an exceptional film.

The cast includes Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton with George Miller as director. The stories of greed, sorrow and love early on are gripping. The ancient setting and mythological world had me watching on with high hopes, only for them to be dashed thanks to a clumsy conclusion. 

The film kicks off with narratology scholar Alithea finding a djinn in a bottle at a Turkish bazaar while looking for a souvenir. The djinn emerges and grants three wishes to Alithea for freeing him from the bottle. 

Alithea is hesitant – she knows misfortune often follows in the wake of the djinn granting wishes. In an attempt to appease her, the djinn tells stories of how he was imprisoned three separate times in a bottle. 

The stories he tells are outstanding. Interesting twists and turns combined with rich storytelling got me hooked early on in the film.

The djinn’s first story starts with the Queen of Sheba, recounting that King Solomon came to Sheba with gifts in an attempt to woo her. The original biblical story stands in stark contrast to this retelling. 

Royal brothers Sultan Murad IV and Ibrahim are key characters in the second story as the djinn details Murad IV’s descent into cruelty and iron fist rule as sultan. 

The third story recalls when the djinn met a young bride of a Turkish merchant, Zefir. She finds the djinn and wishes for knowledge and to leave her husband. 

The first two stories are the strongest sections of the film, with Idris Elba’s performance as the djinn one of the film’s highlights. The character’s mannerisms and development are gripping.

By comparison, Alithea’s character felt underdeveloped with much of the film focused on the djinn, even given Tilda Swinton’s fine performance. 

After the djinn finishes these three stories, the film’s final act sees Alithea bringing him back to her home in London. At this stage, it felt like everything fell apart. Inconsistent editing left me feeling pretty confused too. 

The unusual pacing as well as the frequent fading to black made it feel like it was ending multiple times. With half-baked ideas and late character introductions, the whole final act felt rushed. It was a real disappointment considering the first two acts were so good – a bit of a sour note to end things. 

The final act could’ve been worked on more or extended to conclude the film and develop characters in a more satisfying way, but it ends up being a bit half-baked.

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