Lowdown: Illegal aliens (Americans) are probing the guts of Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom is another one of those [relatively rare] films designed to open American eyes to what is taking place around them and in their name, with emphasis on the pursuit to secure the world’s oil reserves. Like others of its genre it makes its claim to fame by pointing the blaming finger back at the American side, to one extent or another; what separates The Kingdom from the others is that it’s up to date with where the situation in the Middle East is (unlike, say, Jarhead).
The Kingdom starts in a very hectic manner. An American compound in Saudi Arabia, that is – an enclosed area for foreigners to live in and where Sharia law is not enforced – is being attacked by terrorists who do their best to hurt as many people as possible. The mayhem kills dozens if not hundreds, but worse – it kills Jamie Foxx’ best FBI friend, and when Jamie Foxxx is mad you don’t want to stand in his way.
Once the initial mayhem relaxes enough to allow us viewers to get into the groove of watching The Kingdom you notice what is, by far, the most annoying thing about The Kingdom (yes, even more annoying than Foxxxx and Jennifer Garner, one of the numerous co-stars): the camerawork. In an attempt to recreate that authentic feeling of being there the camera shakes at unprecedented levels; so much so that it drove me crazy even though I was watching the movie on TV as opposed to the really big screen. I pity those who saw this one at the cinema! More importantly, I fail to understand the logic behind this very artificial way of creating authenticity. Instead of authenticity it managed to create a headache plus a slight sick feeling.
Foxx’ FBI wants to send its people to Saudi Arabia to investigate the attack but they find themselves blocked by politicians who worry more about the oil. Nevertheless, through some cunning of his own, Foxx threatens important Saudis to expose their contributions to terrorism; in turn, they allow him and three of his mates to go forth and investigate the scene.
Initially, Foxx and Co receive a cold reception upon their arrival to Saudi Arabia; they are not allowed to do much. However, American quality and sense of resolve soon prevail as Foxx’ crew demonstrates their superior skills. They make new Saudi friends, kill many a baddie in some fierce street fighting scenes, and give us a glimpse of what the other side looks like while at it.
It’s this glimpse to the other side that is most important with the film, even though it’s subdued to one extent or another in order to emphasize the film’s more commercial qualities (mostly in the action department). By far the most interesting aspect of it is that The Kingdom does not lay all the blame for the terrorism on the terrorists; it is not afraid to delegate as much responsibility for it on American shoulders, including Foxx’.
As can be expected, you also get the crowd pleasing “oh, we’re so superior” scenes, though: the best example is when Garner is not allowed to touch the body of a dead terrorist victim as a part of her investigation because the dead dude’s a Muslim. Americans also seem to be much superior in all the technical stuff, such as investigating terrorists’ attacks and killing people with guns: for a film that works hard on authenticity, The Kingdom fails a bit with the introduction of shooting scenes featuring the famous cinematic infinite capacity magazine and bullet proof Americans (at least when it comes to the action scenes at the end of the film).
The thing that annoyed me the second most about The Kingdom (top honors go to the camera work) was the way the plot progressed. A lot of emphasis was put on how professional the FBI team led by Foxx is, but at the end they only get anywhere because the terrorists take the initiative. Or perhaps I was intended to become annoyed this way?
Best scene: While the film itself offers nothing we haven’t seen before, the opening credits provide an overview of how the kingdom of Saudi Arabia came to be during the 20th century. Unlike the ordinary film that followed, I found that short history lesson quite interesting.
Overall: It’s interesting but it’s also very compromised and the shaking camera will drive you mad. 3 out of 5 stars; Syriana was way better.