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Overall Rating

Awesome: 21.95%
Worth A Look48.78%
Average: 14.63%
Pretty Bad: 14.63%
Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 11 user ratings

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Kingdom, The
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by Erik Childress

"War Is About Proper Action"
4 stars

Misinformation and the perception of those falsehoods are two of the greatest allies of war. Sell an eager American audience on progress and top-brass enemy kills and many of those magnificent sons-a-bitches will follow it directly into hell. It’s what makes the way Universal is selling Peter Berg’s The Kingdom so amusing. You have a film about an terrorist investigation and potentially a more profoundly astute allegory about where X really does mark the spot and by nudging anxious moviegoers with “and now they are the target” they will be buying into a slam-bang “go get ‘em” hype. Hopefully they won’t be put off when they discover the ads have basically described the admittedly super-thrilling final half-hour. Nor should they. For even as the middle gets a little bogged down in the promise of big revelations and never quite delivering, in the end The Kingdom more than satisfies with an agreeable resolution. Oh, the tangled web of ironies.

A horrifying terrorist incident occurs in Saudi Arabia. The primary targets are Americans living in a compound where all they’re missing in an afternoon of picnics and baseball is a little apple pie. Back home the debate begins on how to respond. FBI special agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) wants to assemble a team to go right into the lion’s den to weed out the mastermind but bureaucratic interference wants them to stay put and not jeopardize their relationship with the prosperous oil families of the region. Sidestepping the red tape with the help of his superior (Richard Jenkins, in a brief but steadfast performance), Fleury gathers agents Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner), Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman) and Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper) for a five-day investigation.

Despite the announced cooperation from the biggest palace in the area, it’s clear from the start that the team is an unwanted interference. Even an American diplomat (Jeremy Piven) makes appearances in hopes of speeding things along and reminding them that a plane is waiting to take off with them at a moment’s notice. Fleury does make an alliance with Saudi Colonel Faris Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom in a noteworthy performance), a witness to the aftermath of the tragedy and subsequent interrogation techniques that numb him into the hunt for justice that has alluded his career for too long.

The evolving relationship between the team leaders is the strongest element of a second act that moves along confidently enough so we may not notice how little information is actually conveyed during this time. Middle hour will eventually draw comparisons to an episode of CSI: Riyadh with each team member doing their thing; Bateman cracks jokes and Garner sucks on a lollipop while Cooper wades through the muck and discovers that an ambulance was involved. This, as one of the few revelations of the section, is presented as a major lead but isn’t likely to register as much to viewers who by then are either clamoring to see more interaction between the team’s specialities or wondering when the “target” action is going to begin.

The Kingdom certainly doesn’t bore or slow down during these passages, but anything would compare as such once you arrive at the final half-hour. No tortoises allowed, this is strictly hare-time only without stopping to rest. The climactic showdown between the baddies who just can’t let our heroes go without incident is a non-stop guns-a-blazing assault that Berg delivers with the panache of the great action directors; an exclusive club that he is quickly earning a membership card to. Perimeter shootouts, close-range violence and hand-to-hand groin-puncturing goodness will induce at least two applause breaks and make you glad the action wasn’t spread out over the brisk 110-minute running time.

There’s a lot to admire about The Kingdom without dismissing it as just another fish-out-of-water action movie. You can work backwards from the big climax all you want, but the screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan (the upcoming Lions for Lambs) has more going on for it than just background filler. The first five minutes does a more pointed and thorough job of mapping our involvement with the Middle East and their chief export than the whole of the muddled Syriana. And the parallel between the film’s final lines gives us a little more food for thought than just the remnants of the popcorn moments. It’s not quite the level of allegory that Paul Haggis developed with In the Valley of Elah where the unsatisfactory resolution to the mystery is the point. The Kingdom will stir a few pots just for substituting Saudi Arabia for Iraq, but maybe the war would have been a lot more like this if we had just gone into the right place to begin with – quick and efficient with a few less bad guys in the world ready to be replaced with the next generation. In other words a rousing, if momentary distraction, until the next one comes along.

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originally posted: 09/28/07 14:00:00
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User Comments

10/23/08 Dan Terrific movie with some very strong themes. Great action and direction. 5 stars
9/26/08 Shaun Wallner Intense Action!! 5 stars
2/21/08 Matt Nicely constructed, fiction perhaps but still informative. The ending doesn't bother me. 4 stars
1/22/08 ben dover fantastic die you muslim mother fuckers 5 stars
1/15/08 Simon Really solid all-around. The heaviness of the final message threw me for a loop though 4 stars
12/31/07 Monday Morning Never a dull moment. Interesting and exciting. 5 stars
12/24/07 action movie fan good buildup to great shootout that rivals heat and dillinger-super action, good diolouge 5 stars
10/18/07 Vince Chan Good, plausible story, not overly bloody, just enough action 5 stars
10/06/07 jcjs poor critics can't sit back, unwind, receive entertainment as such not as truth or a lesson 5 stars
10/02/07 Obi Wan Wow..the movie moved along steady..but the 3rd Act was heart pounding and thrilling!! 5 stars
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  28-Sep-2007 (R)
  DVD: 23-Dec-2007



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