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Movie Review: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen stars Amr Waked, Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt.

Based on such a ho-hum title, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.” The film boils (bad word choice?) down to an examination of faith through fish. Sounds odd, right? It is, but in a weird way, it works wonderfully. Swimmingly, some might say. Ok, no more fish puns, I promise.

Starring Ewan McGregor as Dr. Alfred Jones, a fisheries scientist with Asperger syndrome, the film revolves around a Yemeni sheikh (played by Amr Waked) on a quest to introduce salmon to his country. It becomes quite clear early on that Dr. Jones finds it “theoretically” impossible and therefore is reluctant to join the adventure.

That all changes when he’s given the $50 million he asks for to start up.

Dr. Jones is introduced to the project by the sheikh’s assistant, Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (played by Emily Blunt). McGregor and Blunt have a surprisingly great on-screen chemistry. As a whole the acting in the film is superb.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Kristin Scott Davis plays a political adviser to England's prime minister with wit and perfect comedic timing.

But the scenes really come to life when Kristin Scott Davis’ character, press secretary Bridget Maxwell, is on the screen. Scott Davis brings to life a blunt, politically motivated government official with a crazy personality. She handles the role brilliantly and saves it from becoming an over-the-top caricature. I know it’s very early in the film year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she receives an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

The plot of the movie mainly revolves around the evolution of Dr. Jones’ belief/doubt in the salmon project and how it parallels his personal life and rapidly dissolving marriage and career.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Amr Waked plays a sheikh with the goal of bring salmon to the desert of his country, Yemen. To do so, he needs the help of Ewan McGregor's Dr. Jones, a fisheries scientist.

As his character evolves, his faith in the project grows along with his respect for the sheikh and his interest in Ms. Chetwode-Talbot. And honestly, the audience’s investment in the project grows as the film runs as well.

All in all, this is a top-notch dramedy with brilliant acting. The screenplay by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, The Full Monty) is not too sweet, feels authentic and makes you realize that sometimes it’s not about a project, it’s about succeeding against the odds.

The best part is that if people can get past the title, this is a movie with a little something for everyone.

“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” is rated PG-13 and runs 1 hour and 47 minutes. The film is currently playing in select cities and will open nationwide soon.

All photos courtesy of CBS Films.

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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in Watchin'


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Movie Review: The Ides of March

The Ides of March Promo Art

Ryan Gosling and George Clooney Star in The Ides of March

One of the highest compliments I can give Columbia Pictures’ The Ides of March is that it would work as a silent film. The intensity of the subject, actor portrayals and cinematography are all in sync, but this film uses silence as its most effective weapon. It’s all about what’s not being said that makes it so captivating.

The premise of The Ides of March revolves heavily around political positioning (within the same campaign), loyalty, betrayal, revenge and the exploration of how far an individual is willing to go to get what they want, what I would call extreme ambition. All these elements are set among the backdrop of a hotly contested Democratic primary in Ohio (everyone’s second favorite swing state). Hollywood it-boy Ryan Gosling plays press secretary to George Clooney’s Governor Morris. What starts out as a firm loyalty quickly dissolves once Gosling’s character learns a disturbing secret about Gov. Morris.

The Ides of March is packed with great actors including Gosling, Clooney (who also directed the film), Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood.

Ryan Gosling Plays and Up-and-Coming Campaign Manager

Gosling Plays an Ambitious Campaign Manager

The film drags a bit in the beginning, although it proves to be a successful set-up mechanism for the films first “oh, shit” moment. But once that moment comes, The Ides of March quickly blooms into a political thriller full of maneuvering and one-upmanship. Luckily, the “oh, shit” moments keep coming and with them I got some actual chills.

Throughout the movie, Gosling’s character finds himself struggling with remaining loyal to the candidate he believes in or going after his own career goals. Throw in a romantic interest played by Wood and the story becomes even more complex. In fact, some of the best scenes take place off the campaign trail between Gosling and Wood.

Clooney’s Gov. Morris is relegated to a supporting role until a key scene with Gosling (possibly the best scene of the movie). All of Gosling’s scenes with Hoffman are acted brilliantly, but I really believe the best scenes are the scenes with Wood.

In reality, it’s Gosling who carries this film and takes it to a higher level. The complexity of his portrayal of his character’s emotions and mental evolution (or is it?) will most likely become a case study for other actors. His role in this film has Oscar potential written all over it. Going back to my earlier point, at times, he doesn’t need to use words to be effective. His face does all the work.

George Clooney Portrays Governor Morris

Clooney Portrays Presidential Hopeful Gov. Morris

Aside from the initially slow 30 minutes, The Ides of March is one of the best political thrillers to come out in years. It will draw you in in a way not so different than a real political campaign. It’s full of unexpected twists that kept me guessing up until the end. Clooney directs it at a pace and with an intensity that should earn him more time in the director’s chair.

I have no doubt The Ides of March will perform well at the box office given its stellar cast, but I can’t help but wonder if this film would have fared better in 2012. Sure the election season is underway, but as a marketer, I think the relevance of the film in 2012 would serve it better. Regardless, it’s still a great flick definitely worth seeing. The buzz around it most likely won’t let up until well after Oscar season.

All photos courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

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Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Watchin'


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