Friday, September 28, 2007

Tragic Kingdom

Starring Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, and Jason Bateman, Peter Berg’s The Kingdom is a smart, if somewhat misguided action thriller.

The movie, about the American response to a devastating terrorist attack on an American military housing compound in Saudi Arabia, begins with an accomplished and informative graphic prelude that details the history of oil that plays over the opening credits.

What is presented appears to be accurate, and sets the tone for what is about to unfold on screen: a story about what people do to us and what we do them in return, and why (to a degree).

But The Kingdom’s is a fictional story that takes its cues partly from the memory of the Sept. 11 attacks. Although enjoyable, it is sort of shameful that Hollywood has delivered a movie that borrows from such a real event for the sole purpose of entertaining moviegoers, for the plot is – yikes! – a spin-off of the tragedy.

An event happened in real life, and it elicited a real response – we know that. This wasn’t it – so boy some popcorn and enjoy?

The movie would have been better served had screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan left out that dose of exploitative reality. He’d had shown some restraint and, more importantly, some respect.

But – yikes again! – the movie isn’t bad.

Foxx & Co. play members of a U.S. response unit chasing after the mastermind of the bombing. Their investigation is thwarted by lots and lots of red tape upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, though, as their presence there is perceived by Saudi leaders as arrogant and unnecessary.

Ah, but the agents soon make an ally in a like-minded Saudi colonel Al-Ghazi (Ashraf Barhoum), who helps them navigate royal politics and unlock the secrets of the crime scene, and thus, finally, the action of The Kingdom hits a high in the third act.

And in the end, it becomes clear that in spite of all of our differences, we are all governed by the same instinct to protect that which we hold dear.

Now, if we could have gotten to that conclusion sooner and with less politicalese, then what a terrific an action thriller this would have been.

My Rating **1/2

Photo: Universal Pictures.

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