Seven years after George Miller's previous film, Mad Max: Fury Road, he dives back into the scene with an equally daring movie. Although not nearly as action-packed, his newest film Three Thousand Years Of Longing challenges the typical format of a film, giving you a well-known plot in an unexpected way.
Based on a 1994 short story "The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye" by A. S. Byatt, the movie follows a lonely and bitter British woman who discovers a mysterious bottle while on a trip to Turkey. When cleaning said bottle, a djinn is unleashed and offers her three wishes. She is unable to think of anything until the djinn tells her his story.
Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba are two beloved actors who end up being even more interesting leads. Swinton and almost all of the crew are white and/or men. However, Elba and many of the side characters were of African descent, Middle Eastern descent, or were women. So, overall, I would consider this film a win for diverse casting as there was a wide variety of people.
The biggest issue, as you can guess, is the actual "djinn" part of the story. Although we're all used to the "genie with three wishes and three rules" trope, this film was actually a bit accurate in its mythology. Djinn (also known as Jinn or Genies) are described as beings of "smokeless flame" which is referenced often in the film as Elba is often smoking or breaking into ashy particles. They are able to transform into anything and often act like humans (i.e. getting hurt, having relations, and more). Djinn don't usually interfere with humanity, but instead live in societies of their own kind. This is also interestingly covered in the film as 3,000 years ago, Elba lived among djinn and half-djinn. These societies are also what he often says he wants to return to.
While following pieces of the lore is great and interesting, djinn are very real in Islam. In Islam, djinn were created alongside Man and Angels, able to be both good and evil. Many Muslims do believe they exist and explain unusual situations as activities of the djinn. I believe the film handled it in a decent way but it's a trope I wish people would stop clinging to. It 2022—I think it's time we move on from genies, or at least the stereotypical portrayal of them.
This film is simply stories within stories. Narrated by Idris Elba's fantastic velvety voice, we are taken through the djinn's life and each time he was released and recaptured in a bottle. This is often briefly interrupted by Alithea (Swinton) who asks questions and prompts Djinn (this is all his character is called). Due to this, it has actually been quite a polarizing film as there are some who love the storytelling and others who see it as incessant droning and flashbacks. Personally, I didn't mind the story-inception as I found Elba's character to be endlessly interesting. His encounters and adventures over three thousand years simply whisk me away. Though, if storytelling and narration aren't your favorite, this movie could be an issue.
If you were to watch this film for anything, do it for the visuals alone. George Miller is truly a master of color. The historic Middle East is a great setting that provides a beautiful contrast between dull deserts and stone and the bright reds and greens of ornate clothing and furniture.
Major Spoilers Ahead
What I dislike about this film is the ending. It starts strong, giving us a glimpse into the tiring life of Alithea and meeting Djinn with his thousand-year-old stories. Perhaps it's due to the film being based on a short story, but it started slow, building and building, until it ended in a messy, hasty heap. While Elba and Swinton have excellent chemistry together as actors, there is no chemistry for a romantic relationship, which is forced at the very end. Yes, Alithea eventually spends her wish on loving Djinn and being loved in return as she really enjoyed listening to his stories.
Maybe it's because I'm not a child who watches a princess fall in love in a matter of seconds anymore, but Alithea falling in love with Djinn gave me whiplash. They spent one morning together, told a few stories, and now she wants to be with him forever? No. I would sooner match the djinn up with any of his past companions than her. It's an abrupt, confusing ending for what was essentially just an hour and a half of Djinn's origin story. Hence, I needed more. I feel as though this had all of the workings for a great film: two amazing leads, a talented director, and an interesting hook. However, maybe it is due to a lack of source material, but it faltered hard.
Overall, I recommend this movie, but it certainly isn't for everyone and may leave you unsatisfied.