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The Kingdom September 27, 2007

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Releasing tomorrow, The Kingdom has terrorism at its center and is set in Saudi Arabia (shot in Arizona and Abu Dhabi). A terrorist bombing in an American neighborhood in Saudi Arabia causes FBI agent Fleury (Jamie Foxx) and his team (Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) to react passionately due to the death of a friend. Despite initial objections from higher officials, Fleury manages to get his team to Saudi Arabia to investigate the matter. His team is put in the hands of Colonel Al-Ghazi (Ashraf Barhoum) but their movements are restricted. Nevertheless, Fleury and his team, with ample support from Al-Ghazi, manage to ultimately nab the perpetrator of the terrorist act.

This film isn’t one for strong performances but the best one in the film comes from Ashraf Barhom who plays the Saudi Colonel. Jamie Foxx is likable. The rest of the cast is adequate but doesn’t have enough to do to make an impression though Jason Bateman gets some good one-liners.

The film starts off with the feel of a documentary and slowly transforms into a police procedural but finally ends up as a thriller. The screenplay by debutant Matthew Michael Carnahan (brother of Joe Carnahan who made Narc and Smokin’ Aces) is satisfactory for an action film but it is director Peter Berg (The Rundown) that does a smart job of bringing this to the screen. Though he manages to make an appealing film, the style that he uses to shoot the film is flawed. The hand-held camera seems to be making an impression on filmmakers. Paul Greengrass made superb use of it in United 93 and The Bourne Ultimatum and the impact was primarily because the style contributed to those films. Berg shows an example of overkill. He uses far too many jerks without any purpose. Also, there are innumerable close-ups when there is really nothing to observe.

Most people might not notice but this movie works on the audience like a jingoistic film even if there isn’t specific dialogue contributing to that aspect. It is mostly a one-sided look at the issues from an American perspective. It is really about four Americans going to a foreign land and succeeding against all odds in their mission of finding a terrorist leader with the help of one Saudi officer. An action film with an appealing setting that does require a suspension of disbelief. This film seems like that for most of its length but the last few minutes of the film redeem it to an extent. The makers do an about turn here leading to an ironic climax that delivers a significant message (that comes a bit too late to make an impression on everyone).

Despite a message in the last five minutes, this film is a conventional action thriller that keeps you engrossed even if you don’t care for the style. It also has its share of humor despite the grim subject. I believe audiences will enjoy this film as long as they don’t over analyze it and aren’t looking for a significant take on terrorism or politics.