The Kingdom Review
“"Don't Fear Them My Child. We Are Going To Kill Them All."”
April 10th, 2009
This is yet another installment in the films being made in light of the current military issues in the Middle East. This one imparticular shows the stark reality of things which seems to drum up the negative stereotypes realistically, but tragically as the film progresses.
When a terrorist bomb explodes at an Oil Company's Western Housing Complex in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia killing Americans and Saudi police, FBI agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) must assemble a team to go to Saudi Arabia to capture the responsible to ease tensions between the two nations, and to prevent another bombing.
Fleury's team of feds include a bomb technician named Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper), Intelligence Analyst Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman), and Forensic Examiner Janet Mayers (Jennifer Garner). All the performances are good, but nothing amazing or new.
Willing to assist them is Saudi Colonel Faris al-Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom), head of police at the compound who's more then helpful in the investigation as he is passionate about catching the guilty party. Although his superiors are less than helpful, and of course, the idea in movies that 'the black guy always die first' is ever prevalent at the forefront of your mind every time a confrontation occurs, despite that al-Ghazi is Saudi, but you get the picture. And the way it's portrayed that he and his own police force can't convince the Saudi Prince Rufus (Omar Berdouni) to allow the investigation to be lead by him, who's been in these types of situations before no doubt, but that the FBI can lead it and convince the prince otherwise is absurd, and enforces the idea that we're better than them, despite their best efforts. All of which seems to promote patriotism in that we can do a better job at solving your problems than you can, which isn't true because they're bad at it, but is true because of the corrupt Saudi leaders who don't take action to prevent such attacks from occurring in the first place, and not dedicated people like Faris al-Ghazi, who comes off as the most passionate and sympathetic character in the film.
The opening timeline reinforces the idea that Saudi leaders are at fault, given that conflicts start with WWII in the forties, with King Ibn Saud (mostly referred to as the last honorable King of Arabia) establishing the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932, with an American Expedition uncovering Oil in 1933, leading to the formation of ARAMCO in 1938, much to the Saudi's dismay due to immense foreign presence, but in thanks to Ibn Saud for allowing the Americans to pump oil along with the Arabs in the joint company that was ARAMCO. But with WWII it was seen the potential danger that the site was to be targeted by Nazis and renegades, thus leading to further affairs, although it was then that the many Saudi Princes began to take power and bicker over how to divide it amongst themselves after King Saud's death, thus leading to the many problems it has today. Meaning that people like al-Ghazi don't desperately need outside help to deal with these issues, and also recognizes that there have been far more serious targets than a foreigner's housing compound, which further diminishes the need for FBI involvement, as al-Ghazi was way more helpful than the agents would've previously thought.
So with that underlying historical tone to the film, I was more disgusted at how this seemed to be a pro FBI flick revolving around a real incident on May 12th, 2003 that enforces stereotypes, and diminishes the ability of foreign police to deal with the problems themselves, as it is the agents whom are seen doing more of the work than al-Ghazi, despite that his help is valuable to the investigation.
And the way the softball game and sudden attack at the start grabs hold of you and immediately gets you gung ho for the good guys off-sets the reality of what's actually going on, thus making some less optimistic not see the bigger picture as I am here. So the purpose of that powerful opening seems to be to redirect your point of focus to power the feds and the incompetence of the Saudis. so kudos to you Carnahan & Berg. Really great job (sarcasm).
The jirating camera moves and special effects that make the action look so real was great, but didn't do to much to bolster my hopes of this turning out to be a good movie, as these realistic encounters don't accelerate the film's enjoyment as much as its' realism, which dominates overall, but not necessarily for the better. As those undertones and pro FBI elements I was talking about were at the forefront of my mind the whole way through rather than the immediate story at hand itself. Plus the movie is a bit slow at times, thus giving me more of an excuse to dwell on those things. But altogether it did have a semi-quick pace to it, which is a plus, but only semi-quick because of the few slow moments in the film.
I blame part of that on director Peter Berg, and writer Matthew Michael Carnahan, for they never really go into the idea that the whole story and point in the investigation is rather mute in comparison to the far worse things that occur in Saudi Arabia rather than the deaths of some few American Oil workers whom are oblivious to the nation's problems and the paradise that they live in, versus the one innocent Arab civilians are in, and are frequently found at the shit end of the stick with the corrupt foreign leaders that the feds don't like, but play nice to when necessary. Plus the feds are only there and caring about it since Americans are dead, not the Arab civilians who could potentially be at risk, though Ronald Fleury is the only character in the film to really share some of Faris al-Ghazi's feelings on this.
And while some Arab civilians in the film hate the Americans as much as the terrorists do, how can you be surprised when the Americans care more about a few dead oil workers rather than the fact that they're doing business with a corrupt nation for its oil, could careless about the people's dilemmas as caused by the corrupt Saudi Princes, and blow every little negative thing 'American related' out of proportion because their little minds can't and won't comprehend the reality that is Saudi Arabia, preferring to brush it off as just the way the Mid-East is...and it's sad that part of that last bit is true.
So overall, it was a decent 'B' movie that obsesses over a realistic theme and look, but the mediocrity to the story in comparison to other events, both real & fictional, kills the whole thing for me, as I couldn't wrap my mind around them like other fans of films like these.