Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper,
Jason Bateman, Jeremy Piven, Danny Huston, Richard Jenkins
1 hr 50 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: NC-16 (Violence)
Official Website: www.thekingdommovie.com
Opening Day: 22 November 2007
team of U.S. counter-terrorism investigators set out to find
the perpetrators behind a deadly attack on Americans in a
Middle Eastern country. In order to work through the bureaucracy
and cultural hostility, the team enlists a local police officer,
but still find itself target for the terrorists.
This is undoubtedly an American film made for American audiences.
The Crime Scene Investigation styled beginning promised a
close examination of Saudi-American relationships since the
1930s. The very premise that this was one of Hollywood’s
first fictional films on terrorism and the potential it had
for very much needed education in this area was astounding.
Yet, The Kingdom falls terribly short and ends up as an “Us
against Them” type orgiastic gun/weapon/fisty-cuff fest
that is culturally insensitive, obnoxious and misguided. Too
many misconceptions and biasness for a film made this century
– especially after September 11.
The problem is that this film will sell. And sell very well.
The Kingdom is highly manipulative, constantly stirring and
straining emotions from its audiences, and simultaneously
demonising Saudi Islamists right from the start. This is a
startling impression – apart from extremely few points
in the film (I can count them with one hand), the Americans
are viewed as the righteous do-gooders, seeking truth and
justice, exempt from all evil whilst the Saudis execute a
thorough and cruel terrorist attack, with more in the works.
Admittedly I was fooled for that act. It truly felt terrible
watching innocent American civilians; fathers, mothers and
children being gunned down or blown up. It was well done and
triggered a lot emotions, which given the subject matter,
was very irresponsible. There just wasn’t enough care
to portray the side of the Saudis. What I took from the film
was that only less than five Saudis (including the two police
officers and the pro-American prince) are ‘good’,
the rest of Saudi Arabia (even the very young), just wants
to blow everybody up or are at least sympathetic to the ruthless
But political correctness and discourse aside, this was still
a somewhat entertaining movie. It has its requisite amount
of jokes to appeal to lesser audiences, some very well executed
actions scenes as well as excellent and obligatory heart stopping
chase sequences and gun battles. These actions scenes are
lined up relentlessly, and one never fails to be at the edge
of one’s seat.
It is somewhat unbelievable that the forensic team, especially
Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Gardner, go from harmless investigators
to Rambo and GI Jane in a matter of minutes. Perhaps the film-makers
were trying to put across the idea that ordinary people can
become ‘heroes’ when the need arises? Jason Bateman
perhaps feels more realistic and human in this respect. Indeed,
the minor characters are just that, minor characters as this
is ultimately a film about Jamie Foxx. Even Jennifer Gardner
is sidelined – it would have been simple to write all
of them out of the script. But her fans will not be disappointed,
as she has a sole effective, ferocious and gut churning fight
scene (a little silly to me) near the climax.
It is the ending that saves the film from the usual clichéd
diatribe. Indeed, as the Klingon proverb says, “Revenge
is a dish best served cold”. It is at this end that
the audiences realise that perhaps, just perhaps, the Americans
are not perfect and a possible reason why conflict in the
Middle East will not end soon.
But it came a little too late for me.
(Turn off your brain and enjoy the action)
Review by Darren Sim