George Miller’s Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022) is such a tedious grind from start to finish, it feels three thousand years long in running time. A ponderous and flat entry in the Australian maestro’s slim filmography, which outside of the Mad Max franchise has always been a bit hit and miss, this homage to storytelling and the power of love is a cringey dud.
Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) is a narratologist. That mean she spends her life studying stories. A person who professes to be entirely fine in her own company, the British academic is on a jaunt to a conference in Istanbul, when she finds a bottle in the local souk and a djinn (played by Idris Elba) appears to grant her three wishes. Caught somewhere between disbelieving and astonished, Alithea and the djinn hang out in a hotel room and the supernatural being relates his tragic past, especially how time and time again he ended up in various bottles. Slowly but surely, this lonely pair fall in love.
It’s clear from the opening scenes what attracted George Miller to this project. He has long been interested in mythology and the building blocks of yarn-spinning, especially in the form’s ability to transcend boundaries and borders. But here it’s as if his gigantic talents went on holiday, because what’s left is less Istanbul and more plain old bull.
Laborious, turgid, with the leads possessing zero chemistry, the use of chapter-style headings lend Three Thousand Years of Longing a literary structure, a self-reflective bit of meta commentary, yadda yadda yadda, but this tale never lifts off nor offers a compelling reason to keep with it. Like Tarsem Singh’s The Fall, Miller’s latest is about human creativity, making sense out of our lives, interpreting our travails, our sorrows, our collective past, but the execution feels cheap, the production values cheaper, and it lacks the postmodern charm and eye-popping vividness Tarsem brought to his 2006 gem.
So, instead of an epic and involving tale exploring love crossing time and space, Three Thousand Years of Longing drones on and on like a boring lecturer on a wet Wednesday afternoon in winter, in which we’re told things but never allowed to feel them for yourselves. There is something so crushingly middlebrow about it all. For a director whose images can sing and who recreated action cinema as visual rock ‘n’ roll, Miller is allowed to drop the ball, he has more than earned that right, he is after all an absolute genius in a certain genre and sphere of movie-making, but him trying to hit us in the feels and make a statement on life, love and our finite existence … it’s flatter than Turkish bread.
Image credit: Kennedy Miller Mitchell. All rights reserved