Swinton and Elba make for a great pairing, Miller’s stylistic choices are fantastic throughout and the film’s themes and messages combine nicely to blend the grounded and fantastical elements.
Written by Jack Ransom / August 8, 2022
Director George Miller’s first feature in 7 years, since the masterful Mad Max: Fury Road. Three Thousand Years of Longing sees a lonely scholar (Tilda Swinton), on a trip to Istanbul, discover a Djinn (Idris Elba) who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom.
George Miller is one of the most eclectic directors in cinema history. With a filmography spanning the four Mad Max features, family films like Happy Feet, Happy Feet 2 and Babe: Pig in the City, as well as The Witches of Eastwick, Lorenzo’s Oil and a segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie. There certainly isn’t anything like Three Thousand Years of Longing in cinemas right now and that alone is a recommendation for you to watch it (seriously, despite the admittedly lacklustre marketing my screening was empty on opening day in the afternoon).
This film will certainly prove divisive (especially to a mainstream cinema audience), it deals with some incredibly ‘out there’ concepts and locks itself into an admittedly slower expository storytelling structure that can feel a little repetitive. That being said, thematically the film celebrates the idea of being wrapped up in the wonder of storytelling and the idea of forming connections with each other through knowledge, as well as delivering a unique spin on the ‘cautionary tale’ approach to wish making. It also excels in its more intimate moments, with the charming, funny and snappy ‘old married couple’ routine that both Alithea (Swinton) and the Djinn (Elba) adopt being a contrasting yet fitting counterpoint to the fantastical presentation.
Miller delivers some truly stunning imagery at times throughout. Whether it be suitably bonkers CGI creations: from talking spiders, sentient instruments to mind boggling head trip scenic colours akin to 2001: A Space Odyssey, the creativity on display is in full force. Admittedly some of the green screen and CGI creations do look patchy at points, but this can be overshadowed by the gorgeous and vibrant practical props and detailed set designs. The direction is as impressive as expected and there are many slick scene transitions throughout.
Swinton and Elba are both great here and have effortlessly easy chemistry with one another. The former’s organised, content and peaceful persona gets upended by enchanting yet suspicious forces and Swinton brilliantly conveys Alithea’s change of heart and opinions the more she hears from the Djinn. The Djinn of whom is portrayed very well by Idris Elba, he nails a sense of otherworldliness, wisdom and subtle drops of persuasion to attempt to get what he desires using Alithea. His accent here is also far more convincing than whatever part of America he was aiming for in Beast.
Three Thousand Years of Longing is an undeniably original and intriguing feature that certainly is worth viewing on the big screen. Swinton and Elba make for a great pairing, Miller’s stylistic choices are fantastic throughout and the film’s themes and messages combine nicely to blend the grounded and fantastical elements. There are some pacing problems scattered throughout, with a couple of the stories not being as engrossing as the present day narrative and the multiple fade to black false endings do feel a little tacked on.