Film, Film Review




It’s easy to think about the influence of late-period Wachowski films (Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending, and The Matrix Resurrections) when engaging with the new spellbinding Three Thousand Years of Longing. George Miller’s newest dissection into the art of myths reaches the heights of grandiose world-building with a swooning romancing at the core of what the Wachowskis focused on later in their careers (frequent Wachowski collaborator Kym Barrett even designed the costumes on this one). The filmmakers are in conversation with each other, yet Miller finds his own avenue to conclude that despite all the spectacle, it’s a love story. For as much of our lives as we feel we are content, it’s the search for a soulmate that transcends time.  

Transcending time is what the framing device is concerned with, after all. With Alithea (Tilda Swinton) on a work trip in Türkiye comes across a Djinn (Idris Elba) inside an ancient artifact in an antique shop. Alitha and Djinn find themselves in a morality play, all inside Alethea’s hotel room, with Djinn narrating his encounters with others throughout history who have been granted the powerful three wishes that are now granted to Alitha. Ever shifting power dynamics are consistently gripping, with Elba and Swinton selling the conflict of what it means to give three wishes to someone who is content with their life like Alitha is. Not only that, but she’s an academic who wants to outsmart Djinn even if he is the immortal genie.  

Even as a follow-up to the already iconic Mad Max: Fury Road, it’s felt as though a Miller/Elba/Swinton collaboration has been developing for much longer than a few years ago. In 2018, Miller was set to direct an adaptation of A. S. Byatt‘s short story “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye,” though it has the feeling of a personal passion project years in the making. For Miller and Three Thousand Years, this is all the ambition without the disaster. This could so easily be one of the instances of Miller being in over his head, making his grand statement on love and free will. Yet like all his films, there is a purposeful persuasion that makes you feel like everything ends up in its right place, even on the massive canvas.  

George Miller relates to Swinton’s Alithea throughout as well since he originally studied medicine before finding new love in filmmaking. With the Mad Max films, he explored how cars will be one of the last surviving pieces of technology after humanity brings our downfall to ourselves. He did so more explicitly with the underrated Lorenzo’s Oil and the family tragedy that comes with the medical miracles. Three Thousand Years now investigates the idea of a soulmate and how someone as brilliant and content as Alitha can reach fulfillment in life in a way they didn’t know they needed.  

As a follow-up to Mad Max: Fury Road, this won’t be as beloved, or at least not immediately. Miller, along with the Director of Photography John Seale (who shot Mad Max: Fury Road as well), gives us a genuinely moving romance that’ll sneak up on you throughout the film, making each dimension that Djinn has visited feel lived in. All his stories and experiences are just as consequential as the relationship between Djinn and Alithea, and its beauty lies in Djinn having the agency to dictate this story’s ending.   

Three Thousand Years of Longing


dir George Miller

118 min


Opens Friday, 8/26, pretty much everywhere.

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