Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Movie Review: 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' (2012)


(Reviews may contain spoilers for those who have never seen the film or are unfamiliar with the characters.)

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This film caught my eye several months ago when I saw a trailer for it, and I'd filed it in the back of mind as a "hope to see" film when it eventually came out. I'd basically forgotten about it until it was listed on the marquee at theAlbany Twin Theater. I dawdled a bit since it seems like most movies stay at the Albany Twin for weeks and weeks. To my horror, yesterday I learned it would be ending its run this Thursday. Determined to see it, I planned to go today, after have some of the delicious $1.50 tacos over atClub Montero's beforehand.

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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is based upon the novel by Paul Torday, and revolves around a Sheikh's dream of bringing fly fishing to his stretch of the Yemen River. You see Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked) isn't just a visionary, he's certified crazy in love with the ideals of fly fishing. He owns several estates in Scotland where he can escape the hustle and bustle of the crazy world, and what a better way to do it than fly fishing; just you, the fish and the river!! Sounds awesome, doesn't it?

Only one problem. Everybody thinks he's got an idea that simply can't be done. First problem, there's no river that resembles any river a salmon would be in. Secondly, Yemen is at the bottom of the Arabian Peninsula, not the top of the British Isles. In fact, when Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) is approached by the Sheikh's personal representative, he thinks its a joke. Jones basically sends off a snarky email and thinks that's the end of it. Ha!!

A separate plot revolves around the Sheik's representative, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) and her recently found boyfriend, who happens to be a British Special Forces member, who gets "the call" just after they've spent the night together.

Events in Afghanistan bring some seriously bad publicity to the British government, so they go looking for anything that could get them something good to milk, and all of a sudden the Sheik's crazy fishing scheme isn't so crazy in the eyes of 10 Downing Street's top spin doctor, Patricia Maxwell (Kristen Scott Thomas).

At first Jones' local boss coerces him to meet with Chetwode-Talbot, where he blows her off as someone who doesn't have a clue of what she's talking about, but it's obvious that this may not be the case. Now, top British officials get involved and basically strong-arm him into the project. Still reluctant, he agrees to meet the Sheikh at one of his Scottish retreats. Here Jones is mesmerized by Sheikh Mohammad's personality and vision.

From here to the end, the film revolves around Jones getting the Sheik's vision to reality, Jones' rocky marriage and his increasing interest in Chetwode-Talbot, whose boyfriend has gone missing in Afghanistan.

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In simple words, I liked this film. It had substance to it, and wasn't simply a sappy romantic comedy with nothing but sex and bathroom humor jokes. McGregor and Blunt play their roles with British reserve, as their characters warm up to the idea of what they're working on, and toward each other as they are thrown together by events they have no control over. I don't think I've seen Scott-Thomas play this type of role before, scheming and conniving. However, she carries it well, and you just have to laugh at some of the situations she puts herself through.

If I was disappointed in anything, it was the lack of screen time for Amr Waked. Probably best known to the American audience for his role in George Clooney's gritty Middle Eastern drama,Syriana, he brings an interesting light to Sheikh Mohammed that we rarely see coming out of Hollywood. He's a peaceful man with a vision, and wants to bring prosperity to his country, not at the expense of the Western World. His positive demeanor is infectious and has the other characters believing in his project even though they know common sense says it will never work. At the same time he brings a humanity to the role, and is not simply someone bedecked in jewels and long white robes.

Once again Morocco serves as a stand-in for a Middle Eastern country. As there's no real civilization to give it away, we just assume it was Yemen until  we see the ending credits. By the way, don't expect to actually see a lot of fly fishing in this film, like you did in A River Runs Through It. Sometimes it's the journey that's the most important thing, not the actual event.

I highly recommend this film to anyone. Is it going to win any Oscars or Golden Globes next year? Probably not, but it's a good solid film that's under two hours.

RATED: 7.5 out of 10 STARS

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While Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is now leaving the Albany Twin, it's scheduled to move up to Berkeley's Shattuck Cinema, and is showing at several other theaters in the area. Showtimes and locations can be found at Fandango.

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