In the next few months we’ll be seeing a lot of movies set against the war on terror as Hollywood finally comes to terms with the post 9/11 world. The first of them is The Kingdom and it illustrates the difficulties in making entertainment out of a political and cultural minefield.
At the heart of “The Kingdom” is the issue of America’s presence in Saudi Arabia. A smartly designed credit sequence gives a quick history lesson in the co-dependence that oil and politics have created between the two nations - as well as a reminder that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudi nationals.
It’s another terrorist outrage – the massacre of American expats in a Saudi compound – that brings FBI agent Ronald Fleury, played by Jamie Foxx, and his team to The Kingdom.
They’ve negotiated five days on the ground to assist in the investigation – despite the fact that their presence will only further inflame extremists.
The Kingdom is at its best when it tries to tackle these complex issues.
It creates realistic obstacles to Fleury and his crew getting into Saudi Arabia, and once there, credible bureaucratic and cultural problems.
I was intrigued by its subtle observation that terrorism might be defeated simply because people on both sides are weary of such tactics.
The performances are all strong and Matthew Michael Carnhan’s script carefully humanises everyone. But just when The Kingdom had me convinced it was a superior political thriller it shot itself in the foot – with a machine gun.
When the FBI team are personally hunted by terrorists and take the fight to the enemy, our heroes suddenly become bullet and bomb proof clichés. They mow down dozens of Al Qaeda types – none of whom can fire an AK-47 or rocket propelled grenade to save themselves. The sequences feel like they belong in a Rambo movie.
My thinking is that the script was pumped up in the hope of drawing in action fans. They won’t really be satisfied because they’ve had to wait so long; while thriller fans will feel short-changed by a conclusion that’s more testosterone than thought-provoking.
Despite its final misfire, The Kingdom has enough going for it to rate three stars.
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