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The Kingdom (2007) R 110min

October 7th, 2007 by Maxim · No Comments · 4,824 Views


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Universal Pictures' The KingdomJust saw it in the theatre 1 hour ago. Plot-wise it’s a clone of “Clear and Present Danger” 15 years ago, where instead of Doctor Ryan we’ve got the team of four FBI agents and set in modern-day Saudi Arabia. In the compound where American company oil workers and their families work under protection of Saudi government there’s a car bomb explosion during baseball game. Jason Bateman , Jamie Foxx , Jennifer Garner , Ali Suliman , Ashraf Barhoum and Chris Cooper in Universal Pictures' The KingdomMany people got injured. When help arrives there’s a bigger explosion that kills some 100 people. FBI wants to send their investigators, but Saudi government insists that they would be a target and a liability under these conditions. After tough negotiations a team of elite FBI investigators, Ronald Fleudy (Jammie Foxx), Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper), Janes Mayes (Jennifer Garner) and Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman), is finally allowed to go to the site to investigate and they are granted only one week to do it and get out. A Saudi security officer, Colonel Faris Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom) is assigned to keep the FBI team out of trouble.

I went to the theatre with rather low expectations, hoping that a movie with Jamie Foxx could not be too bad.

The middle of the movie is mostly the FBI team doing regular police work like taking fingerprints, gathering evidence and talking to witnesses, all while trying to work through the red tape: the content of the evening crime-fighting TV shows. My favorite part of the movie was shot in shaky-camera style: kidnapping of one of the FBI guys by terrorists (supposedly Al Qaeda) to tape his execution (by slitting his throat), the car chase and the shootout that followed. That’s when there’s most suspense and action.

All BFI characters were a cliche. I thought most interesting and deep characters were two Saudi officers, especially Colonel Faris Al Ghazi, played by Ashraf Barhom. He was likeable, funny and brave, real Arab warrior, like one you read about in Arab fairy tales, but he’s also a family man. I liked Barhom in “Paradise Now”, where he played a completely different role – one of a terrorist.

Damon Schmidt (Jeremy Piven), the guy from US embassy was too over-the-top wimpy. Seemed like Piven wasJamie Foxx in Universal Pictures' The Kingdom still in the role of gay guy he played so often. I don’t believe a U.S. diplomat could be such a spineless wimp.

The beginning sounded true: all the facts about US-Saudi relationship built on oil. In the middle of the film it’s also mentioned that there are about 5000 princes in Saudi Arabia when conversation was about their palaces. “Who pays for all this?” – “Exxon, Chevron, Shell”.

The ending was simple and effective. Basically it meant that the small victory did save some lives, but the war of the worlds is going to continue. Reminded me of closing scene from the “Kingdom of Heaven” from few years back: “…800 years later the peace in the Holly Land remains illusive”.

The message of the movie was that while governments work on creating “business friendly-environment” so we here can maintain excesses of our middle-class lifestyle (I drove an SUV to and from the theater), there are a lot of people involved in making that oil flow into the tanks of our SUVs without interruption, and there are simple people, not governments, that get killed for it. Oh well. Tomorrow stock market will be open again. I wonder how Exxon Mobil stock is doing. [sarcasm].

There was somewhat of a continuity problem: when our heroes chase down the militants and there’s a gun battle, the cars are blown up, the grenades are flying etc., I’d think general public would be running and tripping as if Godzilla is coming, but the people on the street seem to reappear immediately after street fight is over, and people inside the building where several walls just have been blown up keep watching TV, children play with their toys and women keep knitting.

I liked the “innovative” opening credits, where credits were combined with the historical background setup narrative with 3-minute animated history of the Middle East.

Calling this movie “Rambo in Riyadh” would be an overstatement. Not as good a movie as “Clear and Present Danger”, but I might see it again on DVD in a year, not earlier.

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Tags: Action · Drama · Movies · Thrillers/Suspense

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