The Kingdom, or, How Hollywood's A-Team Saves the Day


I was able to go out and see The Kingdom on Saturday night. It was one of those movies that looked like a decent enough action movie, kind of along the lines of the Bourne movies or something similar. The trailers looked promising, and it’s clearly a product of today’s world, terrorism and CSI coming together. The film opens with an attack on a worker’s compound and is very reminicent of some of the bombings that took place in Saudi Arabia, although the story is fictional. A second blast kills an FBI agent, and an FBI team, led by Jamie Foxx’s character, Agent Fleury, manages to make their way to Saudi Arabia to investigate the bombing. Along the way they have to work through cultural differences, and soon are on their way to finding the people responsible, taking down what appears to be one of the terrorist cells. However, on their way out, one member of the team is kidnapped when their convoy is attacked and they go off to rescue him.
I have mixed reactions to this movie. On one hand, it’s trying to be a complex geo-political thrilled a’la Syriana. It somewhat succeeds in this, at least with the first half. We see the team working politicians, then the Saudis before starting their investigation, taking control of the scene and along the way, we get to see that Fleury and Col. Faris aren’t all that different. Thus far, interesting. The forensics aspect is also interesting, but it’s investigations-lite.
However, once they start shooting, it’s not that great. Once again, we see the Hollywood stars shooting their way around a situation that reminds me a lot of Black Hawk Down, and what little realism that was built up is now completely gone. Granted, the shootout scenes were well filmed and interesting to watch, but when the good guys are just blasting away at the bad guys, now the generic evil terrorist with RPGs or Kalashnikovs, good guys walking away generally without a scratch or bullet wound (except for Col. Faris – Are Saudis now the new Black guy sacrifice?), that ruined it for me.

Filmwise, this was interesting, there was some excellent camera work here, with the fact cuts and action, very similar to the Bourne movies. The colors were good and there were some outstanding framing on some of the people.
There were even some interesting moments towards the end. Jason Bate’s character asked Fleury what he told Gardner’s character. His reply was: We’re going to kill them all. Overlapped from that scene was an identical one, when a woman asked a boy what his grandfather told him as he was dying (shot by the agents). The boy’s answer was the same: We’re going to kill them all.
That for me was the highlight of the movie, pulling the two sides together. It’s not entirely profound, just it was an interesting way to end the movie – the problems are still all there, and it’s cyclical. Where the film was utilizing basic knowledge to get the message across to the American public in an extremely simplified fashion, this is as deep as the director’s willing to get and still attract some of an audience. This isn’t Syriana. It glosses over the culture and differences and problems, even using Abu Hamza (a couple real people, different situation) as one of the villians. (The real Hamza is a UK cleric, recently convicted of preaching violence in London and is currently serving a prison sentance) (The other is an Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, whom this movie was probably meant to use).
Ever since 9-11, I’ve known that film and real-world events would mesh, some in obvious ways, others just influenced. We’ve had a couple of 9-11 movies, World Trade Center and United 93, as well as a couple of movies, Syriana (which is probably the best of them all), this film, even several television shows, such as The Unit and Alias have been influenced by the events, not to mention the Bourne movies. Back during World War II, there were a number of films that were released, such as the John Wayne films, that are mainly propeganda, to boost moral, that we are on the right side, and that they were on the wrong side. This movie does much of the same things, although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t financed by the State Department. The movie attempts to make the Middle East situation a right/wrong and clear cut one, and that’s just not accurate, on a number of levels. The situations are extremely complex.
The film even does a bit of a history lesson in the beginning, bringing the audience up to speed, a necessary thing for US audiences, unfortunently, and also attempts to simplify the situation between the US and Saudi Arabia. It’s a nice attempt, but for US audiences? That’s a bit of a stretch.

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