Idris Elba’s Pièce de Résistance for Three Thousand Years

Idris Elba is the bomb. Whether he’s laundering money in “The Wire,” sporting an office cubicle suit while supervising Michael Scott, or lawyering it up in my favorite role of his in Molly’s Game (2017) —Elba exudes a Denzel Washington-like glide (his admitted influence) and the subdued empathy of a flawed saint.

The role of a wish-granting djinn who falls in love with zealous women for 3,000 years is tailored-made for him. In an Istanbul hotel room, adorned in a bathrobe, Elba recounts his genie-stuck-in-a-bottle stories with narratologist, Alithea Binnie, played by the consistently cutthroat Tilda Swinton. His sullen eyes draw you in, and within fifteen minutes of the movie, you’re hooked just by his storytelling skills alone.

It is a double-edged sword that Director George Miller (of previous Mad Max masterpieces) is the one to interpret these stories visually. Sometimes, Mr. Miller’s imagination-to-screen execution pays off as ancient civilizations burst with vibrant colors, creature sitar instruments pluck themselves, and women of the strongest desires melt in sweat and glitter. Other times, an added layer of characters in costume seems superfluous and better conceived through Elba’s spoken word and suspicious glib.

Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba, Istanbul, and pistachio-chickpea bites

You see, you really can’t trust a djinn, according to Alithea, and Elba’s allure might be too sincere as he tells his stories. A djinn’s desire is just as strong as the human’s, and a djinn will do anything to get out of that bottle for good, including falling in love.

The eminent tension in the movie is found in Tilda Swinton’s face as she grows more and more skeptical of her postmodern Aladdin friend. There’s a humor found here too. Swinton’s Alithea is kind of an attractive nerd who asks the questions we might ask. She needs the tenderness of love, but is love a solution to her desires, a worthy distraction, or just a good story to listen to in a bathrobe in an Istanbul hotel room?

Three Thousand Years of Longing reminds me of the dreamy landscapes observed in the very overlooked The Fall (2006). Both movies take the storytelling of its protagonist and expand its potential through computer-generated imagery, costume design, and haunting music. In a way, these interpretations are what the movies are made for — a sensory experience.

It is a good problem that the storyteller of “Thousand Years” is just as awestriking and engaging as the director’s vision. Some viewers might want more weird stuff to look at. I wanted less. Idris Elba could read this fascinating story at a library, act it out on stage, or record his voice for an audiobook, and I’d be just as entertained.

Just as George Miller’s “practical effects” outduelled anything CGI in his Mad Max canon, the practicality of Idris Elba simply telling a story to a camera lens exceeds the added cinema magic.

Idris Elba is a fantastic(al) reason to see Three Thousand Years of Longing.

***1/2 out of *****

18 thoughts on “Idris Elba’s Pièce de Résistance for Three Thousand Years

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  1. I am an Idris Elba fan since seeing him in The Wire….which I thought Michael Kenneth Williams ran away with….
    This movie seems more like an old fashion movie in a way…the storyline anyway. I wouldn’t mind seeing this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great to hear from you, Max! Hope you enjoyed your August moratorium! It’s just been school, school, school on my end, along with a 20-month old smarty pants. Yes, this is a simple, old-fashioned template for a movie with today’s special effects, and because I’m a minimalist, I enjoyed the acting in one room more than the vast CGI effects.

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      1. Yes I enjoyed it and I got a lot of stuff done that I needed…plus Bernie I needed the break to re-charge.
        I do think I’ll try this one out. Bailey and his girlfriend saw “Nope” the other night….I think he liked it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah, recharges are necessary. “Nope” is a great one to see in the theatre. Classic rock-wise, I’ve gotta student who is obsessed with Floyd like I was at his age 🙂 Other than that, I resort to Jimi Hendrix lately…

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Jimi is ALWAYS a good thing! I’m into 80s alt bands that were never known….I wish I would have known them at the time…it would have beat what was on the radio!
            I don’t know if I told you…I came to Colorado on July 3…drove from there to Tennessee in a truck that was loaned to me.

            Loved the Colorado airport! That horse is kinda spooky though.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. They call him “Bluecifer,” and he fell on top of his creator and killed him. Coloradans are spooked by him too. Road trips are the best. July was too hot. I’m so ready for cooler weather, hoodies, and horror movies!

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Oh yea I read that! Also that the airport in some spots was built on burial grounds.
              Man I smell fall in the air although it’s still humid as hell

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