Ambitious Desert Epic
Although somewhat old-fashioned and overly ambitious, Day of the Falcon worked for me. That’s probably because I’m growing tired of films emphasizing shallow themes and mindless fantasy, so I’m easily won over when I see a gorgeously photographed movie about loyalty, love and honor told against a sweeping desert backdrop. And Day of the Falcon definitely fits that description. In the interest of full disclosure, I also enjoy any movie with Antonio Banderas playing one of the lead roles. This may not be his best performance, but he’s always watchable.
Banderas portrays Emir Nesib, sultan of a group of Arabian tribes in the 1930s. Nesib has been engaged in a dispute with Sultan Amar (Mark Strong) over their border. This fight involves a barren land called “The Yellow Belt.” They finally make peace by declaring that this vast wasteland belongs to neither one of them. As part of the agreement, Nesib takes Amar’s two sons, Saleh and Auda, promising to raise them with his own children, Tariq and Leyla. Predictably, when the children become older, Leyla (Freida Pinto) and Auda (Tahir Rahim) are attracted to each other and become romantically involved.
After oil is discovered in The Yellow Belt, Nesib -- who becomes rich from the oil money -- builds schools and hospitals for his people. But the conservative Amar wants nothing to do with the oil business. He rejects the changes Nesib stands for. And so the battle begins again. Amar’s son Auda travels back to his father to negotiate and ends up having to decide whose side he will take in this new controversy. From this point on, the film belongs to Auda, and Rahim excels as an introverted young man who becomes a surprising and inspiring leader. The camera loves this handsome young actor. He truly succeeds in drawing us into his character’s struggles and triumphs.
Production values in Day of the Falcon enhance the film’s appeal to viewers who appreciate the real thing instead of CGI overload. For example, 10,000 camels appear on screen as well as 2,000 horses during the extraordinary battle sequences. The cinematography by Jean-Marie Dreujou (Two Brothers) captures the scope of the story, and James Horner’s fine background music adds to the movie’s emotional pull.
Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud (Enemy at the Gates) from MennoMeyjes’ screenplay adaptation of Hans Ruesch’s novel, this desert epic may be a bit slow and confusing at the beginning, but I found the exciting second half of the movie worth waiting for.
(Released by Image Entertainment and rated “R” by MPAA.)
For more information about Day of the Falcon -- also known as Black Gold -- please go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.