When I was growing up in the 80’s almost every action movie either took place in Viet Nam or had characters who were Viet Nam Vets. Much in the same way that movies in the 50’s and 60’s were full of World War II stories and veterans. So in 1999 when the movie Three Kings came out, I thought how this was the first of many movies that will have to do with Iraq and America’s involvement in the Persian Gulf area. Personally I don’t think any of this is bad. Art imitates life. And it should. Sometimes, through fiction, the truth can be talked about more easily. For parts of The Kingdom, that seems to be exactly what it’s trying to do.
The Kingdom is about Saudi Arabia and America and what they have to do with each other. The movie begins with a very quick history lesson. It disturbed me a bit that I learned more about Saudi Arabia in the first five minutes of The Kingdom than I have in the last fifteen years of watching the nightly news. Next is a bombing in Saudi Arabia with American victims. This leads to the FBI getting involved and that’s about as much of the plot as I should really talk about.
For two thirds of it, The Kingdom operates very much like the best episode you’ve ever seen of CSI: Saudi Arabia. It takes you through the politics of the cultural differences between East and West and how ordinary people with important jobs manage to get through some horrible things. Through this we get to know the characters and the cast is as good as you’d expect when you have people as talented as Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper in the cast.
Then the movie takes a severe turn. The final third of the movie is an all out firefight. It’s the action movie that the trailers made it seem like it was. The action is well directed and just works. Director Peter Berg was definitely taking notes when he had a small part in the movie Collateral a few years ago (also starring Jamie Foxx). The balance of character and action, the camera work, and the slow burn pacing are all reminiscent of Collateral.
The Kingdom is a well put together action thriller that I think will stand the test of time. Check it out if you have the chance.