After his master-works “The name of the rose” and “Seven years in Tibet”, Jean-Jacques Annaud churns out another great movie, this time a gripping and epic one. Based on Hans Ruesch’s novel Top of the World , the plot is set in Arabia at the beginning of the twentieth century. Two men make the scene immediately – Nesib, the emir of Hobeika (Antonio Banderas) and Amar, the sultan of Salmaah (Mark Strong). For years they have been fighting for the control of a “no one’s land”, but a nth bloody battle forces them to look for the peace. Nesib “adopts” Amar’s two children, Saleeh and Auda, to avoid the violation of the treaty and fifteen years go by without any problem. Because of the oil boom the situation changes dramatically – Nesib wants to get rich thanks to the “black gold” that a Texan finds out in the previously contended area.
The threat of a new cruel war highlights the personality and acting of three characters Amar, Nesib and the young prince Auda. Mark Strong seems to be perfect to play the role of Amar, the wise man who embodies the traditional values; Antonio Banderas, alias Nesib, is the avid bad guy longing for more modern conditions that the oil only can provide; Tahar Haim is Auda, the real discovery of the film. Torn between his father figures, he’s able to merge two opposite factions and points of view.
Throughout the whole film the audience has got the chance to witness astonished the evolution of Auda, a clumsy bookworm who turns out to be a charismatic leader. He gradually turns into the “price of the desert” – as the Italian title suggests – facing the vastness of the desert and the dangers in it. Despite the fact that many war scenes come one after another, the movie is not dull at all. On the contrary, it’s all-involving (soundtracks included) and makes a good evening’s entertainment for anyone.