The Illuminerdi reviews Three Thousand Years of Longing.


It’s been a while since George Miller made a movie, so one would naturally be excited to see what he made after the incredible success of Mad Max: Fury Road. His less attractive films (Happy Feet and Happy Feet Two) are fascinating. Miller never kowtows to the most basic type of filmmaking and always wants to innovate one way or the other. His latest movie, Three Thousand Years of Longing, is innovative in its structure but doesn’t do much to attach the viewer due to its languishing pace and non-existent character development. 

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The plot is easy to follow: narratologist Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton) purchases a bottle while traveling in Istanbul and frees a Djinn (Idris Elba) trapped inside while cleaning it. The Djinn immediately asks her to grant three wishes if they are her heart’s desire, so that he can free himself from the shackles of the bottle. However, Alithea isn’t interested in having her wishes granted. Instead, she wants to know more about the Djinn, to which he tells her multiple stories about his past, which led him to be trapped in Alithea’s bottle.

Three Thousand Years of Longing Official Trailer

However, it doesn’t take long for the movie to feel like it’s leading to absolutely nowhere. None of the stories learn anything remotely interesting about the Djinn, nor does it give any insights on Alithea’s journey of discovering stories (there’s a significant emphasis on stories, a word Swinton’s character repeats ad nauseam). Instead, the film moves at a snail’s pace, constantly veering between the lines of contemplative cinema and maximalist entertainment. There are a lot of staggering images shot by John Seale (who also worked on Miller’s Lorenzo’s Oil and Fury Road), which sometimes overwhelm the frame, but there’s very little substance that accompanies these images. 

Three Thousand Years of Longing

The scale of the movie is massive–huge panoramic shots sweep the film. Yet, the actors’ movements within the frame are passive, as if they belong in a completely different movie, which makes its rhythm feel unnatural and poorly paced. The atmosphere also doesn’t match its visual style. It’s incredibly dull—everyone looks bored in the frame. Still, the photography tries to awaken us from our slumber, as if Miller consistently wants the audience to look passively at the movie instead of actively. It makes for a relatively uneven moviegoing experience and a rather frustrating one when Miller contradicts himself visually and thematically throughout the film.

Three Thousand Years of Longing

It doesn’t help that Three Thousand Years of Longing ultimately leads to a whimper of an ending. Spending 90% of your film on stories without an actual point in sight isn’t a good idea when it will end in the most unsatisfying and underwhelming way possible. Still, one can’t fault Miller for at least trying to do something different and break the mold of conventional filmmaking (as he’s almost always done in his movies), but it doesn’t work here.

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However, it’s good that Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton try to keep the movie going. Their chemistry is palpable enough for me to care about the characters, even if they are severely underwritten. Their relationship feels quasi-forced instead of natural, making some of its later scenes awkward and corny. But their acting abilities can’t be overstated; they have always managed to give terrific performances, even if the material they’re given is haphazard. It’s no different in Three Thousand Years of Longing; they are riveting to watch from beginning to end. 

Three Thousand Years of Longing

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But they, unfortunately, can’t save the movie from being an underwhelming bore. Miller tries his best to salvage it with its dazzling imagery, but it doesn’t help Three Thousand Years of Longing from feeling like a thunderously dull time at the movies. I made the joke on social media, but it truly feels like the movie lasts three thousand minutes without an end in sight. Here’s hoping Miller’s next film, Furiosa, blows all pre-conceived expectations out of the water and gives us one heck of a time in the cinema. 

Three Thousand Years of Longing poster

Three Thousand Years of Longing is now playing in theaters everywhere. What did you think of the movie? Let us know your thoughts over on our social media and let’s keep the conversation going!

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