‘The Kingdom’: Just fine

Thu, 10/04/2007 - 4:26pm
By: Michael Boylan

Before I saw this film I commented to Emily Baldwin, our weekend editor, that after the last two movies I saw, “The Kingdom” would look like “Citizen Kane” in comparison.

“The Kingdom,” an actiony drama starring Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper and Jennifer Garner, is good, not great, but it did wash the bad taste of “Dragon Wars” and “Resident Evil: Extinction” out of my mouth.

The movie starts with a lesson in U.S.-Saudi relations and it is presented in a really neat way. Part news-reel, part animated montage, the opening message is that relations between the two countries are increasingly complex, based on varying religious beliefs and oil, which they have and we need. Things then start with a bang, literally, as a complex full of U.S. civilians working for an oil company in Riyadh, is attacked by terrorists dressed as Saudi police officers. When first responders are dealing with the aftermath, a bomb goes off and hundreds of people, including several FBI agents are killed.

Jamie Foxx’s character and several other FBI agents want to go and investigate the attack and bring the perpetrator to justice. The U.S. government wants them to stay out of it, as it wouldn’t look good to bring more U.S. presence on Saudi soil, since that is what prompted the attack in the first place. Needless to say, Foxx and his team do get over there and discover that solving the case won’t be so easy.

Director Peter Berg does a pretty good job keeping the film serious, but not heavy-handed and action-packed and suspenseful without making it silly or trite. He is aided by solid performances from Foxx and Cooper, as well as Ashraf Barhom, the Saudi police officer responsible for the safety of the U.S. team. Barhom gives the film’s strongest performance and helps convey the message that a police officer from a Muslim country wants the same things as a U.S. officer, namely justice and safety for his family.

Commercials for the film hype the final 30 minutes of the movie as being incredibly suspenseful and intense, and it is. It reminded me of the best moments of the television series “24,” although the final gunfight went on a little long. Still, by the final 30 minutes, you care enough about the FBI team avenging the death of their former colleagues and working within their constraints to capture the terrorist.

The final moments of the film do get a bit heavy-handed, as the message that the war on terror is far from over and could last for many generations to come. However, it’s not so bad if people going to see an action movie are left with something to chew on for a while afterwards.


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