Large portions of Three Thousand Years of Longing are about the Djinn recounting his life to our main character Alithea. His journey is astounding and his experiences both shaped him and his complicated view of humanity. I'll touch on the other parts of the movie later but the Djinn's 3 tales of pain, longing and regret were fantastic. There are so many wonderful things in them, I wanted to sit down beside Alithea and be regaled alongside her. These segments are also buoyed by the wonderful CGI, costuming and set design. The film looks great and they used their mid-tier budget splendidly when it came to the visuals. Terms such as world-building and being swept away are overused but Three Thousand Years had a comforting warmth that I find is all too rare in movies today. It felt like someone was reading me a wonderful book and my imagination was travelling to far away lands and long ago periods in time. I have to give this movie a big thumbs-up for both the visuals and how it chooses to dole out hunks of the plot.
Alithea points out to the Djinn in Three Thousand Years that any story involving wishing always functions as a cautionary tale. We all want our innermost desires given to us but we are also naive enough to believe that we can gain these things without consequence or sacrifice. While most of us would leap at the chance for our heart's desires (whether it was a wise decision or not), Alithea is more measured and cautious when she is confronted by the Djinn. This was a refreshing stance as Alithea is immediately suspicious of him and she tries to reconcile his stories with what she knows about mythology and folklore as an expert on stories and storytelling. Conversely, the Djinn has an air of mystery but he lays the situation bare at her feet almost immediately. When she tries to poke holes in his offer, he tells her stories to get the point across (stories are integral to a Djinn's being according to the movie.) I quickly bought the Djinn's authenticity but maybe I'm the foretold sucker that Alithea references later. The aforementioned stakes add dimension and weight to their back and forth dialogue and The Djinn has to convince her to utilize him. But for as smart as Alithea is, when she gets around to wishing, it makes her wish all the more disappointing. I don't know how many stories or cautionary tales I've read or watched where people make that wish and it backfires because it isn't "real" whether the wisher can accept it or not. I was so intrigued and invested in The Djinn and while I didn't resent Alithea for her beliefs or her choices, I could form that kind of attachment to her. That definitely hindered the second half of the movie for me.
Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton are names you will see in the cast for many prestigious projects, they just aren't always the top-billed ones. Tilda is our main character Alithea and while I wasn't in love with her character, it wasn't the fault of her performance. She's good as Alithea, her character's attitude is measured both in her empathy and her willingness to suspend disbelief and that comes through in her work. I wanted Alithea to rediscover some joy in her life and despite some narrative shortcomings, Swinton got the job done. Idris Elba was the standout to me though. The script gifts him the more likeable character but his sincerity and his ability to run the whole spectrum of emotion from scene to scene are vital to the success of Three Thousand Years. He also gets so much done through only some of his faculties; his voice work and his non-verbal gestures are top-notch and through his work you understand The Djinn's torment and sadness. The rest of the cast is solid and there wasn't an obvious weak link among the performances.
As much as I would like to continue to heap praise on this movie because when The Djinn is enticing both Alithea and the audience about his experiences throughout time, I would use words to describe these segments like "magical" and "enrapturing." The problem lies after we leave Istanbul and Alithea returns to her normal life, the movie can't recapture the same wonderment or spellbind us into caring about Alithea's more contemporary problems. It's far from a disaster but Three Thousand Years of Longing loses its momentum and eventually peters out when the middle portion of the story was so strong. The movie also teases so many potential endings, I legitimately thought the movie was going to wrap-up at the 2/3 mark and I was stunned later at how much of the film was left. The chosen ending punctuates what the movie is about (Alithea and The Djinn's relationship) but I felt like they could have chosen to finish in an earlier scene and got the point across more thoroughly.
I saw Three Thousand Years of Longing knowing very little about it other than the cast, the director and that the premise centred around a Djinn. I couldn't fall in love with this movie but I was so happy that I took the time to see it. Some bits are more enjoyable than others and the film can't help but buckle under the collective weight of the narrative. But Miller's storytelling ability and directorial efforts here are awesome. Getting 3/4 of the way there is still an accomplishment considering how ambitious this adventure was and both me and my 2 friends walked away from the theatre impressed. Longing grades out somewhere between a 7-8 but I'm rounding up because it was a pleasant surprise. I think the visuals make it worth seeing in a theatre, check it out if you're interested.