Nicole Kidman is a fairly decent actress who has appeared in some awful films. In fact, it is safe to say that she has been in more bad films than good ones. her last feature film was "Lion" which was nominated for best movie Oscar. But that was preceded by "The Family Fang", "Secret In Their Eyes", "Stoker", "Just Go With It" and the epic mess "Australia". Of course the hunorous thing about "Australia" as a flop is the mere fact that Nicole is Australian!


Werner Herzog has a decent reputation for documentaries and docudramas. His one Oscar nomination was for the documentary feature "Encounters at the End of the World". But he has churned out ""Cave of Forgotten Dreams", "Into the Abyss" and the feature narrative "Bad Lieutenant: Port of New Orleans". On the surface, this film looks like it should be a surefire winner. But that's on the surface.


One time Oscar nominee James Franco makes an appearance and even "Twilight Series" star Robert Pattinson floats through with Damian Lewis also in support. Decent cast, decent director... story based on the life of a woman of whom few people have heard.

The woman was Gertrude Bell, the British photographer and adventurer who literally roamed the deserts of Persia, Syria, Arabia and Mesopotamia in the turn of the 20th century. Yes a white christian (presumably) woman bouncing around practically unescorted. Considering the nature of Islamic customs, this in itself is a miracle.


Her encounters during her travels were with T.E Lawrence (better known to movie buffs as Lawrence of Arabia) and St John Philby the famous British intelligence person and traitor, and Winston Churchill. She hobnobbed with Faisal I who went on to become the first king of Iraq at her recommendation. With all these attributes, the last thing you'd expect would be the two hour film to be boring and incomplete. Yet there we are.


The film opens describing Bell's life of privilege with an Oxford education and wealth from mills and iron. The film has Gertrude having an affair with Henry Cadogan (Franco) when in fact her first improper affair was with Sir Frank Athelstane Swettenham - a person the film makes no mention of. Anyway the films affair is very brief leading Gertrude to take a vow of celibacy.


She begins her explorations and cultural investigations of the nomadic bedouins of the Arabian peninsula and despite the fact that she was a woman, won the hearts of the various sheikhs and emirs with diplomacy and grace. She was frequently accompanied by them on her travels. There is absolutely no action nor hints of danger. Ho-hum.


Gertrude's encounter with Lawrence is dummied down to a brief conversation. Herzog spends far too much time focused on the unconsummated affair between Gertrude and Charles Doughty-Wylie (Lewis) and lets the rest of her life slip away through occasional photo captures from her journey. The unremarkable script is unremarkably recited by the cast, including Kidman, who seems as bored as she was in "Australia".


The one saving grace for the film is the incredible photography and learning a little bit about a woman who existed in a very inhospitable land at a very inhospitable time.


"Queen of the Desert" is a beautifully photographed but poorly written film about a woman who was probably no less than amazing. Director Werner Herzog manages to make her dull and only moderately interesting.   -- GEOFF BURTON