Queen of the Desert review: little life in the barren wasteland

Nicole Kidman.
Nicole Kidman.

IF you think the idea of strolling through a barren wasteland desert for more than two hours is as boring as watching paint dry, you would be correct.

Queen of the Desert does not prove otherwise.

This cheesy romance novel brought to life is based on the fascinating story of a fiercely independent woman with unlikely political influences, but it is as dry as a sandbox and as fatigued as a dehydrated hiker.

In the early 1900s Gertrude Bell (Nicole Kidman), tired of being cooped up in her mansion and being shopped around to potential husbands, wants to travel and explore the world.

When the love of her life Henry Cadogan (James Franco) dies, she sets out to cover as much of the desert in the Middle East as she can, against directions from the British Secret Service, during the crumble of the Ottoman Empire.

The desert is set up as a dangerous no-go zone with maximum threat, particularly for a lone female traveller, and yet there is rarely a moment we feel Bell’s life is in jeopardy.

Without any tension or sense of foreboding, this comes off more like Eat, Pray, Love with political undertones.

The love story is performed with such heart on sleeve earnestness that one would believe writer/director Werner Herzog is trying to recapture those grand old Hollywood epic romances; alas, it is likely to incite sniggering.

The seemingly endless shots of trudging through miles of orange sand are, admittedly, stunning to look at and make for a breathtaking backdrop to Kidman’s still delicate and beautiful features.

Sorry Nic, there is only one Queen of the Desert and her name is Priscilla.


Queen of the Desert (M)

Directed by: Werner Herzog

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Robert Pattinson, James Franco

Two stars

Review by: Julian Wright

In cinemas today