Queen of the Desert

An outstanding woman, poorly remembered

Gertrude Bell (Nicole Kidman, trying hard) was an explorer, an archaeologist, a feminist icon and a cultural pioneer who befriended the Middle East’s warring chiefs and was instrumental as an advisor on dividing up the crumbling Ottoman Empire. To make a film about such a woman that’s this cringingly banal takes a rare talent, supplied here, somewhat puzzlingly, by Werner Herzog. This misfire explains neither what drove Bell nor what restrained her. And although frequent voiceovers remind us of the story’s spiritual dimension, there’s little evidence of it. And Robert Pattinson as T.E. Lawrence? Please. (128 min)