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If You Like This You Should Watch:  Lions for Lambs, Black Hawk Down
Better Than:  Shooter
Worse Than:  Clear and Present Danger, The Siege

The Kingdom

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Ashraf Barhom

It’s never a good thing to find yourself in the middle of an identity crisis. This holds true when talking about films too. The Kingdom fails to lay out a clear path of whether it wants to be just another war/action film or just another political/agenda film. One thing is for sure though, it is just another film.

We are taken through narration and a visual timeline in the beginning of the film to connect the USA and Saudi Arabia with non-other than our favorite bone of contention with Middle East relations…oil. Thankfully, before director Peter Berg (who also directed Friday Night Lights and managed to use his shaky camera and fast-paced cuts for a more apt depiction of war) goes the route of Syriana, he introduces us to the characters and some semblance of a back-story. Unfortunately, once we are thrust into the lame plot buildup, we find ourselves wishing it went the route of Syriana.

An “untouchable” fortress in Saudi Arabia housing many Americans is infiltrated by Muslim extremists and all hell breaks loose. They go on a shooting rampage killing a few hundred people and creating a greater strain on the US-Saudi relations at the same time. That means “enter stage left” for the FBI’s version of CSI when the team led by Special Agent Fleury (Jamie Foxx) want to head over there to try and pick up the pieces and find these terrorists.

The film immerses itself in the “political propaganda” pool right then and there. They focus on the Attorney General’s unwillingness to send FBI personnel into that area because of the Saudi’s insistence that it would create an image of instability and greater unrest. Now I am no law professor, but since when does the Attorney General have a say in international relations? Finally we learn that the political message has been covered and the FBI team (Foxx, Bateman, Garner, and Chris Cooper) ignores the orders to stay at home (why was it necessary to develop that storyline again?). Now that they get over to Saudi Arabia, the movie can start.

If you lasted through the first half hour or so, you might be pleased by the remaining screen time. The writers wasted our time with all this “background” nonsense for the one person living in the hills of North Dakota who doesn’t know that things are tense between us and the Middle East. The movie should have actually begun when Foxx and his FBI team arrive in Saudi Arabia. This is where we see firsthand the tension between the Saudi and US forces, and how both sides struggle to perform a job under very different sets of rules.

The real drama here lies within the relationship developed between Special Agent Fleury (Foxx) and Colonel Faris (Ashraf Barhom). Barhom puts forth a breakthrough performance and I found myself liking him as an actor more and more. Foxx might as well have sleepwalked through this role, but his supporting cast carries him through it. Jason Bateman always lends an air of levity to any cast, and the rest of the ensemble each brings a different element to the group which is headed, albeit unintentionally, by Barom.

The action scenes in the end keep us intrigued even if there are no surprises to any of it. Much of the storyline gets jumbled up and confuses the viewers because the film itself doesn’t have an identity. It walks the line between political statement and war-action flick, but ultimately doesn’t wind up in either. Until the last lines are uttered by Foxx which attempt to show that we are all at fault, we didn’t know what the hell the point of this movie was. The only person who seemed to get “it” was actually Jamie Foxx, who would have had to hit the lottery to make an easier paycheck.
Submitted 4-15-08

Interesting Cameo Appearance:  Tim McGraw (country music star, son of former pitcher Tug McGraw, and redneck cameo specialist as in Friday Night Lights) as mourning father and husband, Aaron Jackson.

Memorable Quotes:
Ronald Fleury:
Which side do you think Allah’s on?
Colonel Faris Al Ghazi: We are about to find out!

FBI Director James Grace: You know, Westmoreland made all of us officers write our own obituaries during Tet, when we thought The Cong were gonna end it all right there. And, once we clued into the fact that life is finite, the thought of losing it didn’t scare us anymore. The end comes no matter what, the only thing that matters is how do you wanna go out, on your feet or on your knees? I bring that lesson to this job. I act, knowing that someday this job will end, no matter what. You should do the same.

Ronald Fleury: Does he know where Bin Laden is? That would be a huge promotion for me.

Adam Leavitt: It’s LEH-vitt, not Le’ Vesque. I’m not a goddamn French-Canadian.

2 Comments

  1. Classic: “One thing is for sure though, it is just another film.”

    Nice to get a laugh today.

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