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STUDIO: Inecom Entertainment Company
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 112 Minutes
● Extended Expert Interviews
“Its Lawrence of Arabia meets PBS!”
A veritable cast of thousands (Hey, it’s Winston Churchill! And over there, it’s T.E. Lawrence! And isn’t that Edmund Allenby?).
The Middle East in its current incarnation is what we Americans refer to as a “fuck sandwich”. But what led to such a divisive and war-torn environment? This film examines the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I and the subsequent distribution of land out to the Allied victors (looking for fertile land to capitalize on the upstart oil industry) as the starting point for what has remained a quagmire ever since.
Although the pictures leave something to be desired, Satan always has the most bitchin’ frames.
The real question that must be asked when viewing a documentary is whether or not it succeeds at being cinematically invigorating beyond its informative basis. In other words, does this movie improve on the experience of reading a book on the same subject? Unfortunately, for Blood and Oil, that answer is no. It has fascinating subject matter that hasn’t been examined in-depth in the realm of documentary filmmaking. And outside of cursory mentions of Gallipoli in history classes, I would venture to guess that many of us (myself included) don’t know much of anything about the WWI-era Middle East. But what’s done here amounts to little more than a two-hour discussion of the battles/strategies of the region during the war. There’s not much done to harken back to the film’s opening thesis in which director/writer Marty Callaghan sets us up for a movie that examines the connections between today’s struggles and the events of the past, in fact settling instead for a fast-forwarded version of the Middle East’s struggles from post-World War I to the present in the film’s final five minutes.
Stanislaw’s hat not only provided maximum insulation, but also allowed him to proudly display his affinity for Mars Attacks!.
The film’s running time is mostly devoted to discussion of the different battles that took place all over the Middle East, eventually leading to the end of the Ottoman Empire. I can’t say that it’s a strong re-telling of this historical time period either, as the dispassionate tone of the documenting eventually seeps into the viewer, creating a very lethargic experience in which you’re inundated with information about generals and strategy without it ever making much of a mark. It’s the filmic version of a high school class in which the professor dryly reads out of the textbook without breathing life into the events to make them relevant to their audience. The film continually bounces back and forth between different areas of conflict, never really allowing for an investment in any one part of the war or any specific figures involved in the conflict. The editing is perfunctory (there isn’t much that can be done, one supposes, with scads of grainy footage of soldiers marching interspersed with Glamour Shots of Russian czars and British generals), and the pacing doesn’t ever really find its groove. It’s an information overkill that results in the viewer feeling more like they’ve attended an overlong lecture instead of viewing an vital historical documentary. That isn’t to say the movie isn’t informative and often times interesting, it is (in spite of itself at times). It’s just not a cohesive whole that saddles the viewer with heaps of historical facts, leaving the context for us to find on our own.
The audio is serviceable for what amounts to a talking heads documentary and the video is as good as can be expected when the source materials consist mostly of grainy video stock and old images. In terms of special features, we’ve got a boatload of trailers for other documentaries of the same ilk (Johnstown Flood, Horses of Gettysburg, etc.). There’s also an extra half hour of interviews with the three historians interviewed in the film, which is essentially information supplementary to the film without all of the pretty images interspersed within it. Also available are English subtitles for those who love the shit out of history but aren’t equipped with the ears to hear it.
Glad that’s settled, then.
5.5 OUT OF 10