Queen of the Desert

Nicole Kidman in Queen of the Desert. (SK Pictures)
Nicole Kidman in Queen of the Desert. (SK Pictures)

What it's about:

A chronicle of Gertrude Bell, a traveller, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer, and political attaché for the British Empire at the dawn of the twentieth century.

What we thought:

The story of Gertrude Bell is an inspiring one. 

Her real-life adventures read like a story book filled with real danger, the undiscovered beauty of the desert and excitement in exploring the unknown. 

Gertrude was a traveller, writer, archaeologist and cartographer that dared to go where literally no man would. 

She was such an inspiring woman and her adventures so amazing that it was only fitting that a big-screen film was made in her honour – afterall we’ve heard the story of Lawrence of Arabia. It was about time we shared the Queen of the Desert’s tales. 

Cast in the lead is Nicole Kidman as Gertrude. Kidman, a veteran on the big screen, does a marvelous job at bringing the stories from the desert sands to life. She is, as always, the rock that serves as the foundation on which the film is built. 

But sadly that’s where the good ends. Despite Kidman’s skillful portrayal the film fails to capture the breathtaking beauty of the desert and the phenomenal true-life story of Gertrude Bell. 

By far the most disappointing element of the film is the cinematography. The lackluster attempt by Peter Zeitlinger to capture the aesthetic of the setting was almost insulting. With every possible tool at his feet and an exceptional story to back it up, Zeitlinger completely fails to visually represent the magic embedded within the tale. 

I’d much rather have seen Mandy Walker, who Kidman worked with on Australia, take on the task at hand. Walker knows how to effortlessly capture the vast open spaces that Queen of the Desert so bravely had to take on. 

Although most of the cast did a stunning job on screen it was James Franco that surprisingly disappointed most. 

The American actor failed to convincingly portray the role of diplomat Henry Cadogan. As a longtime fan of Franco and avid follower of his social media accounts I found it almost impossible to believe Franco’s sudden British poise after I had seen him posting shirtless selfies online just the day before. 

The mystery and mystique that surrounds an actress like Kidman and makes you believe whatever she offers to you on the big screen is completely lost by someone like Franco who so publicly shares his personal life on social media and even his own app. But that is a conversation left for another day. 

Queen of the Desert could have been a stunning film and surely had everything counting in its favour. But alas this desert tale is dry, lifeless and fails to impress.