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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is an allegory about achieving the impossible: introducing 10,000 salmon to a man-made river in the ostensibly inhospitable Yemen, at the whim of an impossibly rich and self-indulgent Sheikh. This task is ruthlessly propelled by the British government’s media juggernaut, who are seeking a feel-good story from the Middle East instead of the regular doom and gloom that saturates the airwaves. The film jumps out of the blocks with witty, whippy banter between the two leads (a brilliantly dry Ewan McGregor, and an effervescent Emily Blunt).
Kristen Scott Thomas plays a cocksure, unapologetic press officer with her usual cynical astuteness. The dry humour is delivered with subtle tongue-in-cheek English sensibility, and director Lasse Hallstrom handles what could be fairly wearisome subject matter with a deft hand and keeps the pace moving at a satisfying rate. The cinematography is lush and sweeping, and the script initially solid and entertaining.
However, the cloying sentimentality and the hokey faith metaphor is layered on so thickly, that one eventually feels like this movie is drowning in its own overwrought message. The all-knowing smugness of the Sheikh’s character (an unconvincing Amr Waked), compounded by what cripples these allegedly culturally-sensitive movies- gibberish instead of the language they’re portraying (in this case, Arabic)- really bogs down this movie; and by the end you may feel like you went fishing for Salmon, and instead caught a turkey.
3/ 5 stars