The movie starts sets out its stall right at the start, with the titles overlaying a potted history of Saudi so far, and how we came to the present time and the tenuous `alliance' between the US and Saudi. From there we have a terrorist event which takes place in Riyadh, targeting Americans, so that the FBI feel the need to send a team, led by Jamie Foxx, and including an unlikely but strangely believable crew including Jennifer Garner (Alias, Elektra) and Jason Bateman (Arrested Develoment). They have to work closely with the at first distant Saudi police Colonel whose job it is to protect them.
What follows is akin to any of a number of TV `procedural dramas', overlaid with the political backdrop of trying to function in the unique environment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. That is, until the last act of the movie, which then becomes a straight, but very effective, action movie. Indeed, the action is some of the most thrilling seen for some time - while the hand held camera approach is somewhat annoying during the build up and political backdrop being established, once in the action scenes there is a visceral quality to events that really make you feel part of the action. You can feel yourself ducking when the characters do, in effect!
Is it a politically aware movie spreading a message about Middle East relations? Well, yes and no. It is in most ways a straight forward thriller, done fairly well. Indeed, once the action starts, you pretty well know how the rest of the movie is going to go. However, the Saudis are not just presented as two dimensional bad guys, but a multi-tiered and multidimensional society, which is in itself an improvement on many other contemporary movies on a similar topic. And the final few minutes do espouse a level of political message not evident through the rest of the movie, allowing for some level of pondering and bar stool conversation after the movie has finished.
A decent thriller then, with just a touch of commentary on the subject of Saudi-US relations.
on 7 April 2008
The opening sequence of The Kingdom documents the history between the US and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and it only serves to pull you in from the get-go.
When the movie itself starts we see an American housing compound in Saudi Arabia being attacked by terrorists. The carnage it leaves behind includes many dead Americans. While the FBI investigates all incidents where US citizens are killed the politics of Saudi Arabia means the FBI can't just walk in. However, stings are pulled and the FBI are invited to observe the investigation.
The one thing I'll give The Kingdom is that it refused to dumb down its story and make the Saudis appear as little more than window dressing to a big screen American shoot-'em-up. While Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper and Jason Bateman all get top billing, the real star of this story is Ashraf Barhom who plays Saudi police Col. Al-Ghazi. Al-Ghazi was at the scene of the initial attack on the compound and throughout the film we see him as a man dedicated to his profession, with an acute sense of fair play, protocol and justice. Initially he is given the role of babysitter to the FBI agents as the Saudi's aim to restrict their movements. However that all changes when the FBI are invited to a meeting with a Saudi Prince. Given free reign to investigate the bombing their way the movie really kicks off as the audience is treated to a top notch story that touches on everything from culture clashes, forensic revelations, kidnapping, religious doctrine, and the self perpetuation of hate, all of which culminates in a final half hour of riveting, vicious, blood spattering action.
I've just returned from 10yrs living in Saudi Arabia and I was intrigued to see The Kingdom if only to see how accurate Hollywood could get everything that is Saudi. I was stunned to see that they had it spot on in every way - from the attitudes towards Americans to the uniforms of the compound security The Kingdom hit the nail on the head in every way. All combined The Kingdom is a really good action thriller with history as it's basis. Excellent.
Saudi and the Middle East are always of interest to us as family has worked there, at Aramco - so we were interested to see how well this was done.
The film gives a reasonable authentic feel for the locality, and the action sequences are some of the best I have seen in any film.
For some reason, whether it is that actors have not been trained, or because directors feel that 'reality' demands incoherent speech, or because the actors just can't open their mouths - whatever, much of the film I found myself making up a script because the lead actors were only clear when uttering expletives. Whatever else they said could have been almost anything. That detracted from the film and lost its 5 star rating, for me.
Apart from that, though, it is well recommended.
on 5 March 2016
Brilliant film.One those when there's nothing on the television,films you can watch and sad as it may seem to some,I will watch time and time again.and still be upset at the end for the policeman and his family.It makes you realise not all people from that part of the world,are all bad.
on 10 December 2008
If you like the TV shows Criminal Minds and CSI, with a bit of West Wing thrown in for good measure, then this DVD should appeal. A group of FBI agents are flown in to investigate a car bomb atrocity in Saudi Arabi, encountering not only the problems of solving a crime, but also a completely different culture. How they cope with this is one of the strong points of the movie and that, along with the incredible ambush scene on a crowded highway, are what raises this movie above the average.
I particularly liked the DVD extras - especially the detailed analysis of how the fast moving motorised ambush scene was carried out, as well as the way the final showdown was put together.
An action movie with strong performances, and intelligent script that makes you think, and incredible action sequences.
I found The Kingdom to be a curious film. Director Peter Berg sets the premise up nicely with a potted history of US and Saudi relations , revolving primarily around , big shock here , oil. He seems to be saying that America was as implicit in 9/11 through it's treatment of The Saudi's (The attacker were after all primarily Saudi's ) as anything else. He then gives us 90 minutes of mixed messages about who the bad guys really are -which to be fair is probably somewhere near the truth but does so with hugely entertaining but ridiculous action sequences. At the films rather bleak conclusion I was left wondering was he trying to make a serious political thriller or a big dumb ass action movie ? I'm still not sure though I would under duress opt for the latter.
The Kingdom begins with a devastating attack , including a massive bomb -blast, on a housing compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where American oil company employees and their families live. The Saudi government, after initially insisting that U.S. investigators stay out to avoid looking weak before the Saudi people, reluctantly allows a small team of FBI personnel into Riyadh, for a few days, and only if they promise to explicit follow instructions.
The FBI team is led by Ronald Fluery (Jamie Foxx), an experienced FBI commander and "CSI"-style detective, with medical doctor Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner) and investigators Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman) and Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper) completing the squad. Their Saudi contact is Col. Al-Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom), a military officer who is disgruntled at being saddled with babysitting the FBI. He's more than happy to follow his orders, which are to prevent the FBI from actually doing anything which might lead to them finding out who's behind the attack.
The middle third of the film drags somewhat as the team carry out painstaking forensic examinations of the bomb -site. This is primarily so we can see Al-Ghazi and Fleury attain mutual respect for each other and gradually the Saudi Col becomes more willing to help the Americans hunt the attackers , primarily their leader Abu Hamza(Where have I heard that name before?)We see that Al-Ghazi is a dedicated Muslim and a thoroughly decent family loving guy. We know where this is going.
The films last third is taken up with a technically brilliant , noisy but preposterous extended gun battle where the Americans and Al-Ghazi are lead to a terrorist stronghold after one of their number is kidnapped to be be-headed on camera. Despite overwhelming suerprior forces armed with RPG,s and grenades galore the Americans prevail , save their colleague , kill all the bad guys including the wiry Garner overcoming one roughly the size of Big Daddy.
If the film is trying to be even -handed that last sequence lets it down badly. Its, the usual vastly out-numbered US forces slaying all the villains we are used to seeing in films like Rambo or anything by Stephen Seagal. It's brilliantly done mind but still essentially Team America with real people....and Jamie Foxx who's too perfect to be a real person. It,s not helped greatly by having a token Arab good-guy -though to be fair there is another Saudi Sgt Haytham (Ali Suliman) who helps the Americans- and a couple of Machiavellian US officials-Danny Huston as Attorney General- for a bit of balance.
The Kingdom has it's heart in the right place but hasn't enough heart to make it a truly balanced political thriller. Terrorists are murdering scum - this film doesn't flinch from that but neither does it fully investigate why terrorists do what they do, and this could include problems in Saudi society as well as Al-Qaeda propaganda and rampant Extremism . Ultimately The Kingdom seems to be saying that this is a conflict no one can win. Until one side stops the violence and lets be honest it's not likely to be the terrorists , then it will go on and on. I don't have the answers and unfortunately this film does,nt really offer any either.
In a year of non-stop political thrillers, The Kingdom far exceeds expectations and is one of the most watchable. A team of FBI investigators play the role of CSIs, and as their investigation proceeds so the action hots up until the finale has as many guns blazing as Black Hawk Down.
It's all set in Saudi Arabia, which is the Kingdom of the title, where an American base is horrifically bombed by extremists. The FBI guys (including Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner) fly in to local hostility and have to win over the respect of their opposite numbers in order to find out who committed the bombing. The filming is taut and tense, the characterisation minimal but effective. There's maybe a little too much 'American mumble' in the banter (you'll need to turn up the sound for some dialogue and then knock it back down before the next explosion deafens you!), but when the action gets going the final show-down is edge of the seat stuff.
There's a particularly chilling sequence where one of the FBI guys is held by extremists and comes close to being beheaded -- it's stuff to make you wince and flinch, and you're gripped as the rescue team desperately searches to find him.
Bad bits? The usual pointless shouty confrontation which it's hard to believe really happens between adult professionals. And Garner's character bounces around in a short vest and looks grumpy when told to cover up a little, when the FBI would surely never send a woman into this kind of delicate situation. But it IS a movie, after all...
In the end, the final lines of The Kingdom sum up the whole film, and the whole sorry state of today's global conflict, in two short sentances. The movie goes from an action-adventure flick to an adult political commentary in a single breath, and left us utterly open-mouthed as the credits rolled. The reason why the conflict goes on and on is summed up so succinctly, and is all the more powerful because (as the film-makers intended), you're suckered into rooting for 'the good guys' during earlier events.
With its final punch, The Kingdom proves itself to be every bit as grown-up a film as Rendition or Syriana. But on the way to that moment it also contains come great acting and action.
One to buy...
on 2 February 2008
What is there not to like about this film?
OK, there is the ubiquitous shaky hand-held camera (which is a little over done), blatant American jingoism and the ever so predictable bullet proof good guys (the Islamofascists are just convenient cannon fodder).
However, this is an action-packed no brainer meant purely for entertainment and on that level it works very well (for a more intelligent film in the 'terrorism' genre, watch A Mighty Heart).
The script uses the time-honoured technique of showing innocent Americans being killed so that we bond with the law enforcement agents when they seek justice and revenge. The device here is the massacre of US civilians by Al Qaeda. Never mind that cluster bombs kill innocent Arabs in ways as barbaric as suicide bombers, this is America saving the world with style.
The principal cast do a good job and Ashraf Barhom as Colonel Faris Al Ghazi gives a terrific performance. The action scenes are impressive, although the bonus feature reveals how much better the final scenes would have been without a music soundtrack.
The Hollywood spin on America's superiority might try one's patience (as does the excessive use of hand held cameras), but the pace and tension more than makes up for its shortcomings.
This film tells the story of an FBI team who go to Saudi Arabia after an Al Qaeda suicide and car bombing of a compound for Westerners working for oil firms. The film largely revolves around the FBI team's frustration with their Saudi handlers lack of sympathy, co-operation and professionalism. The film is a mix of CSI and any film with lots of explosions and gun fights.
Contrary to what some reviewers claim, this film is NOT a flag waving jingoist piece, and I do not recall seeing an American flag even once in the film. Furthermore, the Saudis are often shown in a very sympathetic light, with one police officer shown helping his elderly father into bed after a shift. In another, a Saudi is shown playing with his children before leading them in prayer. In fact, the Americans are portrayed rather negatively, with the compound workers shown as virtual hill billies, some of the FBI team come across as smug and sarcastic and the State Department official has a door to door salesmen feel about him.
The film does have some strong violence. In one scene, the Saudi police "interrogate" a suspect with a spiked club. In another, women and children are gunned down in broad day light drive by shootings. In another, a man is beaten and bound, before being paraded before a camcorder whilst a team of insurgents stand behind him ready to behead him. The haunted look in his eyes during this is very striking.
The film does have a couple of weaknesses. One weakness is it seems to progress very slowly, with large amounts of screen time spent simply wandering around the crime scene picking up pieces of debris, or arguing with their Saudi handlers for more time or concessions. Another weakness is the rather anti-climactic ending (which I won't spoil for you).
All in all, a good film. This will especially appeal to you if you like crime/police/action films, as there are doses of each of these genres in the film.
on 31 December 2007
A blistering violent, action thriller that pulls no punches to depict the best and worst of both US and Saudi societies but does so in a balanced and even-handed way.
Excellent characters, brilliantly directed and pacy and pulls no punches to make its point. If you want to see a different society portrayed properly then see this. It can't be 100% accurate in such a short time but it does its job and shows that while the Saudi way of life is a long way from perfect to Wesetern eyes, so is the opposite side. All have faults, all have courage and cowardice but all are given balanced viewpoints and the movie shows everyone as imperfect and human.
Ths situation in the Middle east is complex and still based on older principles than ours. Is that a bad thing? Watch this and decide yourself as its gives both sides of the argument well.