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Monday, April 9, 2012

Movie Review: SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN

SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN
2012
PG-13


"We need a good news story from the Middle East. A big one. Get on with it.
 -- Patricia Maxwell


Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a 2012 romantic drama directed by Lasse Hallström that's based off the Paul Torday novel of the same name that tells the story of a group of people trying to introduce the sport of salmon fishing into the Yemen. The idea started with Sheikh Muhammed (Amr Waked), a very wealthy oil industrialist as well as fishing enthusiast, who not only wants to fish in his native homeland but also wants to bring life and fertility to an area that has seen drought and poverty destroy his people's way of life. The Sheikh enlists the help of his personal assistant Harriet (Emily Blunt) to find a way to make his plan take flight. Her search finds fisheries expert Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor), who immediately rejects the idea as ludicrous. At the same time, the British government suffers a massive PR disaster after a battalion in Afghanistan is wiped out. In response, the Prime Minister's Press Secretary Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas) tries to find a "good news story" from the Middle East, and when she stumbles upon the salmon fishing idea, she does everything in her power to push the project forward.

I had heard about this film a few months ago, and although the trailer didn't strike a "must-see" chord with me, I never really counted it out as a possibility. The idea seemed interesting and fresh, and I thought we might be getting an effective film. And, after the film started to garner generally positive reviews (it currently holds a 68% approval rating on Rottentomatoes.com), I figured it'd be worth a shot. I saw the film as a family outing on Easter, and I'd have to say it proved to be an enjoyable experience.

Let's start with the screenplay. It's coming from Simon Beaufoy, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter who brought us films like 2008's Slumdog Millionaire and 2010's 127 Hours, so you know the credentials are sound. And while this screenplay doesn't necessarily measure up to those aforementioned films, I do have to say that Beaufoy brought forth a story that proves entertaining throughout. Although the story delves into a slew of predictability throughout the film, I still found a way to keep myself engaged with the storyline, but I think that may have been a result of the characters moreso than the storyline itself. Beaufoy has managed to craft some well-rounded characters in the past, and Salmon Fishing offers a similar spectacle.

While well-crafted characters can portray themselves well on paper, it ultimately comes down to the actors to bring those characters to life on-screen. Fortunately, we're getting a pretty good cast in Salmon Fishing, and each actor succeeds in bringing their character into a reasonable level of believability. Still, I found it difficult to center on any character in particular, and that proves a bit of a problem for the film. McGregor and Blunt are the film's stars, but at times I was more fascinated by the supporting characters - most often, by Thomas's performance - that our two leads sort of faded into the background. Despite this, I do think the cast is rather well-rounded, and they each played their parts well, but there really isn't anyone who stood out so far above the rest that they truly deserve special mention. It's just a solid cast all around.

A quick side note: for those of you big on film scores and the music used in movies, be on the listen for this particular score, which was composed by Academy Award-winner Dario Marianelli. Although it's not really his best work, I thought his score complemented the film rather well.

At the end of the day, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a predictable but enjoyable adventure that delves into romance and politics and war. Is it going to be a film you'll remember for a while? Probably not, but that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy it while it lasts.



Movie Review Summary
Grade: C
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