Lasse Hallström is a true believer. The Swedish director crafts love stories for those who like their romances bathed in lakeside sunset glow and unsullied by complications. He even does it when adapting Paul Torday's satirical novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, which folds in terrorism, the clash of values between East and West, major engineering projects and high-level political maneuvering.
Confining the political barbs wholly to scenes involving Kristin Scott Thomas, Hallström reclines and basks in the inevitability of the sparks struck between Ewan McGregor's buttoned-up fisheries scientist and Emily Blunt's flighty, ill-defined assistant to a Yemeni sheik. McGregor's Dr. Alfred Jones is enlisted against his will to aid the Anglophile sheik's attempts to import the sport of salmon fishing to his desert home country, despite the scientific implausibility and the local population's distrust. Blunt is his point of contact, the elaborately-named Harriet Chetwode-Talbot. The whole operation is insisted upon by the prime minister's press secretary, desperate for some good news out of the war-embroiled Middle East.
Both McGregor and Blunt are in relationships, but his cold, shrewish straw wife and her MIA soldier boy are characters designed solely to be discarded in the name of fated passion. A long-standing marriage, concerns about undertaking modernization efforts in the face of residents' resentment, a brave soldier's inconvenient insistence on not being dead: All are shrugged off in favor of two attractive, eccentrically matched characters who really kinda like each other.
"Faith and fish," intones the mystically minded sheik to encourage his uphill endeavor, a mantra to which Hallström vigorously subscribes. Unfortunately, almost every issue surrounding the bland central couple-to-be would make for a more interesting story. But even when violence threatens at the climax, the director rushes through the spectacle to reconcile his lovers.