Reviews

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Kingdom

Director: Peter Berg (Very Bad Things, The Rundown, Friday Night Lights)
Writer: Matthew Michael Carnahan
Producers: Peter Berg, Michael Mann, Scott Stuber
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Chris Cooper
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 110 min
read my spoiler disclaimer



reviewed by Andrew James
     Peter Berg seems to have really outdone himself. A film finally worth calling a film. Although let's be honest; Michael Mann's finger prints are all over this production. From the grainy film stock, to the high energy and well choreographed action sequences to the hand held camera technique... this appears to have a heavy handed influence from the Mann.

      Before the live action even starts, Berg gives us a brief history lesson of the Saudi Kingdom. It is done so artfully and skillfully, it was difficult to pay attention to the history, because the style was so unique and interesting. We follow animated timelines as they intersect and overlap stock newsreel footage over the last 80 years or so. Along with a weathered, block font, it gives us a quick idea of what sort of region we'll be entering, why and what sort of reasons there might be for violence.

      Once the short, yet brilliantly executed history lesson is over with, The Kingdom begins explosively and intensely with a terrorist bombing in Saudi Arabia of peaceful and innocent, American men, women and children. A special FBI task force is allowed entrance to the country to investigate who might be responsible. The 4 man (and women) squad quickly find that the investigation isn't the difficult part of their mandate. It will be overcoming cultural obstacles and Saudi red tape. On top of this frustration, they are quickly labeled as targets by Muslim extremists. And so sparks fly in a deadly attempt to find who is responsible for these atrocities, before that person finds them.

      What makes The Kingdom work so well, is the realism and texture of the surroundings the FBI team, and indeed we as an audience, find ourselves. Terrorist attacks are almost a daily occurrance in real life and you can turn your TV to cable news stations nearly anytime to see and hear reports of deadly terrorist bombings. In these pictures, we often see the aftermath; we don't ever see the actual bombing take place. When bombs go off in this movie, it is terrifyingly real. The look on the faces of the audience during some of these sequences might've been worth the price of admission alone had I been able to tear my eyes from the screen. Even less explosive, yet no less shocking, are the shorter montages we see of the bomb makers as they go about constructing weapons of terror. It is truly frightening to watch, knowing that these bits of glass and nails may soon find their way into a baby's face or a young man's lungs. Some of these scenes are not easy to watch and maybe not enjoyable, but certainly powerful and eerie.

      Leading the cast is Jaimie Foxx, who is heading up the special investigative unit. His calmness in the face of danger is very much like his cool character in Miami Vice (again, a Michael Mann picture). With his coolness, Jennifer Garner's looks, Chris Cooper's sly intellect and Jason Bateman's wit (who doesn't seem to have any purpose in the film other than comedic relief), this is a nicely cast set of characters. Oh yes, and don't be fooled by Garner's girlish looks. She was on "Alias" for a reason and she hasn't forgotten how to be a bad ass.

      The real characters in the film to pay attention to though, are the Saudi Administrators and officials. They each pull off their roles so perfectly, you'd swear these were the real guys in charge of a middle eastern, oil kingdom. Watch especially for Ashraf Barhom, who plays a saudi police Colonel, faced with the task of keeping the American team safe. His relationship with Fleury (Foxx) begins to blossom slowly throughout the picture and his presence is noteworthy and his performance nothing short of stellar. A best supporting actor Oscar nomination on the horizon? I wouldn't bet the farm, but it's certainly very possible.

      The movie is surprisingly un-preachy. It depicts things as they are and has no qualms about portraying who it believes are the true makers of evil. Though ultimately it is an anti-war or at least an anti-violence picture, with the film's final, relevant and powerful last lines that I promise will stick with you. Obviously this is a good thing. Whatever your stance on the current global conflict, I think we can all agree that less violence would be a positive.

      Still, this is a movie; and we as Americans want violence and action in our films. And I can give my personal guarantee that this movie delivers in spades. There are three or four key action sequences throughout the picture that are unbelievably gripping. The suspense that builds to these moments are nail biting. Anything could explode or bullets might fly by at any minute. As an audience, we know this and the anticipation is almost unbearable. Imagine what it must be like to actually be there! Fortunately, we don't have to imagine, as it is being shown to us forcibly and realistically by Mr. Berg. The last 30 minutes of this movie is truly edge of your seat. Other than maybe the opening sequence of this year's earlier zombie flick, 28 Weeks Later, nothing else this year comes close to the intensity of the final action sequence within The Kingdom.

      As I said, Mann's influence is strongly felt (and likely needed) throughout The Kingdom. I'm not sure I can recall a single moment of screentime that isn't being filmed using a hand held camera. Surprisingly, it isn't all that distracting. Hand held doesn't always mean shakey cam, and I think Mann... er, I mean Berg shows that tactic well here.

      Several comparisons went through my mind while watching The Kingdom: Clear and Present Danger, United 93, Black Hawk Down and Syriana just to name a few. As all of these are fine (or fabulous in some cases) films, The Kingdom fits nicely within this small pocket of titles that fill this genre. It is a worthy addition to the political action/war picture. Fans of smart action will not be let down and there is something to think about on the way home. More than just how much action, but also the film's ultimate meaning and message.
     


Click "play" to see the trailer:


Links:
IMDb profile - full cast and crew
Official Site
Flixster Profile for The Kingdom




 





andrew@moviepatron.com
Posted by Andrew James in
Review

(83) Comments • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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  1. One of the best Action movie in 2007! Its very horrifying if you are in an Arab state. Right?

    Pinoy Money Talk  on  02/22  at  10:20 AM
  2. One of the best thrillers I’ve seen in a long time. It could almost have a sequel. Fox is so versatile when it comes to acting.

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  3. Shows like this make me upset because I know it is happening all the time and there is nothing the average person can do about it because of politics. Great Movie!

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