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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If there's one flaw plaguing Peter Berg's The Kingdom, it's that it
tries to be all things to all people. OK, maybe not all things as it
definitely doesn't try the romance angle. That's not to say The Kingdom
isn't a terrific film, because it is. However, it should have been
decided at the outset to make this movie either a political or action
thriller, and gone with one or the other.
Matthew Michael Carnahan's script starts out hitting all the right action beats as it unfolds with a vicious terrorist attack on a Saudi compound housing employees of an American oil company (the movie draws inspiration from the 2003 compound bombing in Riyadh). From there the movie almost threatens to get bogged down as it shifts focus to the political machinations both hindering and enabling a joint Saudi/FBI investigation. Fortunately, Berg pulls the film out of this quagmire that threatens to put the breaks on the movie almost as surely as the political attempts to nix the joint investigation.
With the political jabber out of the way, The Kingdom gets down to the meat of the script, shifting the Saudi investigation into high gear and refusing to take its foot off the accelerator.
The movie deserves full marks for refusing to dumb down its story and make the Saudis appear as little more than window dressing to a big screen American shoot-'em-up. While Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper and Jason Bateman all get top billing, the real star of this story is Ashraf Barhom who plays Saudi police Col. Al-Ghazi, a man dedicated to his profession, with an acute sense of fair play, protocol and justice. Al-Ghazi, who was at the scene of the initial attack on the compound, initially plays the role of hamstrung go-between relegated to babysitting and restricting the movements of the FBI at the urging of higher-ups. However, thanks to a fortuitous face-to-face between the American "guests" and a Saudi Prince, Al-Ghazi is given free reign to lead the US investigators as they try to uncover the mastermind behind the attack.
From there, the audience is treated to a top notch story that nicely touches on everything from culture clashes, forensic revelations, kidnapping, religious doctrine, and the self perpetuation of hate, all of which culminates in a final half hour of riveting, vicious, blood spattering action.
I said The Kingdom suffered from one flaw? On second thought, make that two. It's also yet another victim of the hand-held cameraman suffering from Delirium Tremens, complete with blurry and shaky shots that rarely allow the viewer to actually focus on the images being played out. One day Hollywood will learn that this type of cinematography just doesn't cut it. Sadly, this is not that day. That said however, The Kingdom delivers a smart, taught, evenly balanced thriller that easily shapes up as a heavyweight in this year's run for the Oscar.
I went into this movie hoping it wouldn't be a cheap shot at either the US Government or the people in the Middle East and I wasn't disappointed. The introduction that outlines the history between Saudi Arabia and the United States alone proves as much: no matter how intense that action was (and it was very much so), the movie itself was a fairly level-headed look at the current situation. You are drawn into the action from the very beginning, but from there it does not sink into an FBI team shooting up Saudis. There is actually an INVESTIGATION, with political interests in the background all the while. An excellent action movie with more than a little thought put into it, but not for the faint of heart.
Peter Berg's "The Kingdom" is a thrilling movie, that's out of the
question. The problem is that it doesn't really know whether it
primarily wants to be an action movie or a political comment.
It starts out well enough. The gripping opening montage documents the connection between the U.S.A. and Saudi Arabia and sucks you right into the story. The first act plays out as a very good depiction of terror in the middle east. In the second act the movie loses some of its pace and we get to know the characters a bit more. What's really off-putting is that the Americans come across as constantly joking, relaxed, but at the same time totally competent people. It's the old "cowboy"-image Hollywood has always tried to convey in its war movies from the 80's, that should really have been left behind by now. It's not a fatal flaw, but it definitely prevents the movie from becoming more than just an action flick set in the middle east.
This becomes more apparent in the final act, which starts with a car crash and continues with countless shootouts. The movie goes way over the top from this moment on and turns into something Jerry Bruckheimer might have thought up. Technically the action scenes are developed pretty well (I don't share the common criticism of other reviewers that the shaky cam distracted too much. I'm not a fan of it usually, but here it was alright). In its best moments the action looks like something out of "The Bourne Ultimatum", in its worst the movie could be "Shooter".
What separates "The Kingdom" from "Shooter" is its message, though. The final lines spoken in the movie redeem Berg of a lot of the mindless action that preceded them. After all, the makers apparently did want to make some kind of statement and this last comment really hits home. Other than that you don't find much of a message in "The Kingdom". Just because the movie doesn't glorify the U.S.A. at any point, doesn't exactly make it critical. It's merely neutral, which is more than can be said about most American action movies dealing with terrorism. There is one questionable scene, in which a police man from the middle east and the main character, an FBI agent played by Jamie Foxx, seem to agree that it would be best to simply execute the masterminds behind terroristic acts without asking any further questions. On the other hand, this can just be seen as the realistic depiction of what those characters would feel, because I don't think that either would be a big defender of a terrorist's rights.
In the end "The Kingdom" is a straightforward action flick with enough critical undertones to not be propaganda. It's a very exciting thriller to watch, but except for the final scene there's nothing really thought-provoking here.
I had the opportunity to view this film a couple of months ago and I almost declined the offer thinking it would be another boring movie about terrorism in the middle east. I'm glad I didn't decline. This film got me hooked from the get go and kept me hook up until the credits. Not a an epic movie by any means but it sure is very entertaining and packed full of action. LOTS OF IT. I know for most action movies, plots and storyline are very weak. I'm not trying to say the story was bad, far from it. The story line was actually very good with strong dialogue and an amazing quote towards the end that really gets you thinking. No spoilers here, just go watch it when it comes out. You won't be disappointed.
There is much to like in The Kingdom. Nice performances, a slightly-new
take on the buddy-cop story, Jennifer Garner's upper lip, and some
excellent action set pieces. However, halfway through watching it, it
occurred to me that it would in fact have been a much more interesting
film if none of the stars were in it. Which was little odd, because I
am very fond indeed of Jennifer Garner's upper lip.
The plot is this: There is a big terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia. Some FBI agents led by Jamie Foxx, fast talk and bamboozle their way into the country to investigate, where they team up with two Saudi cops. There then follows a small amount of detective work, some interesting political manoeuvring and two really rather well-done shoot outs.
Now, I like Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper and Jennifer Garner('s upper lip) who play the FBI agents, and although all three do the best they can with the material they are given, no effort is made to make their characters interesting. What's worse, although they aren't interesting, they are nevertheless vastly superior to everyone else. Thus nearly every single advance in the case is made by these three. They are the ones who solve everything.
The two Saudi cops, on the other hand, are interesting characters. Two good cops working in a corrupt, brutal system. Trying to solve a horrific crime whilst faced with hostility from their fellow officers and political interference from above. What's more, they're human. They have weaknesses and fears. They make mistakes.
And that's what occurred to me. I thought to myself that this film would almost certainly be more interesting and entertaining if the whole idea about the FBI agents had been removed, and instead, we'd just been following the wily but unfailingly polite Colonel Al Ghazi and his loyal sidekick Sergeant Haytham as they tried to solve the crime. Instead, once the FBI turn up, these two get relegated to standing to one side and looking suitably impressed every time one of the names-above-the-title stars does something brilliant.
Right at the start of the film, Jennifer Garner's character (ably assisted by her upper lip) makes a comment about how if the Saudi's allowed the FBI into the country to investigate the crime, it could prove to be enormously destructive. If only the film makers had listened to her.
It's not that the Kingdom is a bad film. In fact, it's actually a rather good film. I just think that if they'd dropped the stars, it could have been much better.
I saw an advanced screening of this movie. The movie is exciting, informative and moving. Just enough action to keep your heart pumping and a great story - I became involved. This movie will show you a slice of life in Saudi Arabia. The characters are real and the struggle to get to the truth is real. The interplay between the Americans and the Saudi troops really shows the differences in our cultures while also showing how police are police and just want the truth no matter where they come from. This movie shows how we should be able to get along if we put religion to one side, but how in the end it is our parents hatred and fear of anything different becomes our own hatred and fear while not knowing the why of it. Hate perpetuates hate and in the end we all suffer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film has a great opening act: a terrorist attack on an American
housing compound in Saudi Arabia leaves many people, mostly US
citizens, dead. The FBI investigates all incidents where US citizens
die, but the politics of the Middle East don't make things that simple.
The FBI can't just walk into Saudi Arabia, but nonetheless, strings are
pulled and the agents arrive to investigate.
The film's second act is also compelling and focuses on more than just the crime at hand. The FBI agents have a Saudi State Police Officer to look after them and they form a certain friendship. They are people who make their life doing the same thing, but they have different ways of doing it and thinking about it. That's what makes the film interesting. The portrayal of the Saudi Arabia also isn't ridiculously demonic and evil as I thought this film might turn out. Ashraf Barhom plays a dedicated and strict man, but he is also likable and his character development is treated just the Jamie Foxx's character. Their relationship in the story exemplifies the two different ways of dealing with the issue at hand. The film isn't very deep, but is definitely better than the typical action movie with a political backdrop and definitely enough to keep the film rolling.
The film's third act begins with a massive car crash and pretty much never recovers. Throughout the film you can see the shaky camera that seems to be popular with many thrillers today, but the third act really does it. The action is so shaky and edited together so fast from so many shots you actually begin to wonder: have they forgot about choreography? Better known as "the arranging of on-screen action so we can actually see what is going on for a couple a seconds at a time." And it is not just the action, but the plot just races toward a quick kill 'em all revenge conclusion that knocks off all the bad guys, has some cheesy moments when a good character dies and leaves you almost in disbelief that the film could wind up here.
There is an interesting irony in the very last scene that asks some questions, but by that point it feels like they were giving so many quick convenient answers that a question seems out of place. --- 6/10
Rated R for violence and profanity. Ages 13+.
It seems most of the negative comments are from people who think this should be an historically accurate picture of culture and politics in the middle East. That's the wrong approach to take from the start! I know a little more than the average American, being Jewish and having an aunt who taught this subject at the college level, but I didn't sit there taking notes about what was unrealistic like some folks did. And I enjoyed it! Isn't that the point of a movie like this? The story was good, the dialog interesting, the action top-notch, and as an Alias fan, I even get a thrill seeing Jen Garner doing makeup commercials. Hang loose, fellas--this is an action-adventure, not a PBS news documentary.
I was able to see an advanced screening of this movie. With such an all star cast I thought it had to be good. It didn't disappoint. This movie had you involved from the first couple minutes. It starts out with a very intense and rather violent attack on US citizens in the Middle East. The movie is about terrorists in the Middle East, specifically The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The FBI steps in when US citizens are attacked abroad and Foxx, Cooper, Garner and Bateman play a team of agents sent to Saudi Arabia to investigate the attack. It seems like there was a lot of research for this movie and it is interesting to see the interactions between the US officials and the Saudi officials. There is constant action in this movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat but also emotion (I cried several times). I do have to say though there is a lot of violence, so if you can't handle it don't go. I didn't think the violence was overdone but it was present throughout the movie. That said, this is one of the best action movies I have seen in a while. Go see it, it is awesome on the big screen!
The plot is twisting and the movie overall spectacular, although this Jason Bourne style story cannot be taken too seriously, in my opinion. The director, just to make the product more real and grab the attention, tries to add complexity and depth but the level reminds somehow the one of episodic TV. There are a few surprises, some forensic elements and the flick bears some resemblance to Syriana, that was a well done film. Action is undeniably spectacular but Jennifer Garner is not that believable and conceptual flaws are present in the plot. The finale is tear jerker but makes sense eventually, since it's not so far from reality..
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