Relax. The title is meant to provoke a “Huh? What?” That’s the reaction of fisheries expert Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) when PR consultant Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) tells him that billionaire Sheikh Muhammad (a wonderful Amr Waked) wants to bring fly-fishing to the desert – damn the cost! The British prime minister sees the crazy idea of shipping 10,000 North Atlantic salmon to Yemen as a ploy to distract from the nasty business in the Middle East. He enlists his hardassed spokeswoman, Patricia Maxwell (an irresistibly bossy Kristin Scott Thomas), to make it happen. That she does. This is a rich subject for satire and sticking it to political bureaucracy. Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (127 Hours) has mined Paul Torday’s book for delicious nuggets about Western capitalism at war with Muslim culture. Director Lasse Hallström clearly appreciates Sheikh Muhammad’s dream of using salmon fishing to unite the people of Yemen across barriers of sect and class. Some might object to the Chocolat sweetness Hallström brings to the unlikely romance between the married Dr. Jones and the engaged Ms. Chetwode-Talbot. But McGregor and Blunt have charm to spare and the no-bull instinct to cut to the heart of a scene. In the Dead Sea of Hollywood formula, their film is a distinct delight, brimming over with spirit and surprise.
From The Archives Issue 1152: March 15, 2012