Fred (McGregor) is a UK government fishing expert assigned to help a wildly wealthy sheikh (Waked) create a fly-fishing site in the Yemen. Working with the sheikh's financial advisor Harriet (Blunt), Fred struggles to overcome his doubts about the scheme. But he's won over by the fact that the sheikh is both passionate about fishing and has enough cash to achieve the seemingly impossible. As Fred begins to fall for Harriet, he'll need to make a decision about his estranged wife (Stirling), while Harriet's special-services boyfriend (Mison) has gone missing in action.
All of this plotting provides a series of convenient coincidences, awkward encounters and tentative new relationships. Fortunately, the script doesn't overplay the romantic storyline, but then it hardly has time to, as the story also includes both a political satire, with the Prime Minister's sassy press agent (Scott Thomas in scene-stealing mode), and a gang of militant zealots who start brandishing guns and threatening to violently terminate the river project.
With so much going on, none of the strands really has a chance. And screenwriter Beaufoy doesn't get a grip on any of the storylines, never quite bringing them together and leaving threads dangling all over the place. As a result, there's not much resonance, which is a shame because the film has a thoroughly engaging premise and the actors are charming. McGregor and Blunt make a terrific couple, drawing out character detail in their spiky banter, while Waked helps the sheikh emerge as an intriguingly thoughtful character all his own.
If the film had focussed more narrowly on the feathery, cheeky relationships, it would have been much more satisfying. The political, military and religious sideroads all feel distracting, as if they were tacked on to make some sort of comment about east-west relationships. And yet the filmmakers can't get through a story about Muslims without adding some irrelevant fanatical terrorists. And these kinds of plot contrivances that dampen the film's considerable appeal.
Run time: 107 mins
In Theaters: Friday 20th April 2012
Box Office USA: $9.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $9M
Distributed by: CBS Films
Production compaines: BBC Films
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 93 Rotten: 46
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Producer: Paul Webster
Screenwriter: Simon Beaufoy
Starring: Emily Blunt as Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, Ewan McGregor as Dr. Alfred Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas as Patricia Maxwell, Rachael Stirling as Mary Jones, Amr Waked as Sheikh Muhammad, Catherine Steadman as Ashley, Tom Mison as Capt. Robert Mayers, Tom Beard as Peter Maxwell, Jill Baker as Betty, Conleth Hill as Bernard Sugden, Alex Taylor-McDowall as Edward Maxwell