Drawing on the real life oil conflicts in the first half of the 20th century, 'Black Gold' tells the story of two warring factions who lay claim to a territory, the Yellow Belt, rich in oil, craved by outside sources. However, the two try to make peace by having the children of one side (led by Strong's character) held hostage by the other (Banderas'). As they grow, complication and politcal intrigue ensue and lead to grand-scale violence and corruption.
Jean Jacques Annuad's Arabian epic is a film of two halves: The first is a lackluster, undeveloped conflict between the traditionalist Arabs and those who embrace the new-found wealth of oil that doesn't get explored beyond 'Money is Bad! No, Money is Good!' It also doesn't help that, though his performance is fine, Banderas sticks out like a sore thumb as most certainly NOT an Arab.
But then, the second then takes on a David Lean-ian dimension, with beautiful desert cinematography and large scale battles across the dunes between desert hordes and the now mechanized army. There are also some amusing & likeable characters like a disinherited prince-turned-doctor, as well as some moments with definite emotion and heart. One such example when Strong's Amir talks about his son, Auda's, mother, and why he has not agreed to the terms proposed by his rival, which did tug a few heart strings. In the end, it's uneven, but worth checking out for its practical spectacle, especially at its now bargain price.
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