U.S. Release Date:
September 28, 2007
Director: Peter Berg
Writer: Matthew Michael Carnahan
Producer: Ryan Kavanaugh (executive), Michael Mann, Scott Stuber
Composer: Danny Elfman
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman, Minka Kelly
Running Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes
MPAA Rating: R (intense sequences of graphic brutal violence, and for language)
Count The Kingdom among those post-9/11 motion pictures that cashes in on that particularly vicious act of war—the worst attack on America as of this writing—while reducing it to nothing more than formulaic cops-and-robbers fare with dialog straight out of a bitchy cable comedy. Director Peter Berg's voyage to religious dictatorship Saudi Arabia goes further than its perceptual-bound predecessors (United 93, World Trade Center). Berg (Friday Night Lights) suggests that Islamic terrorists are right: America caused and deserves mass murder.
War is an important subject and America's appeasement of the totalitarian Saudi regime—a veritable training ground for jihad Moslems—might have made for a thoughtful premise. The Kingdom squanders the opportunity at every turn, opting for cardboard characters, big, loud explosions, jerky photography and an outrageously offensive theme.
Beginning with a graphics display that recounts recent Saudi history—accurately stating that Americans, not Saudis, discovered and developed oil in Saudi Arabia, and noting that the Saudis subsequently seized it—Berg uses an animated image of an airliner striking the World Trade Center (1973-2001), properly predisposing the viewer to this fundamentalist Moslem state, whose citizens comprised most of the hijackers.
After the rapid-fire words and images, an American compound on Saudi soil is attacked using a diversion, killing an operative with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and countless American citizens. Of course, the U.S., apparently still governed by a Bush or Clinton, responds by treating the bombing as a criminal, not military, matter. Dispatching an FBI team, the U.S. appeases the dictatorship by ceding to their primitive and dubious demands—women must be subjugated and the inquiry is controlled by Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom quickly loses its crown. Jamie Foxx plays the same stock character he did in the atrocious Miami Vice, leading the supposedly top-notch unit, but managing to rise within the FBI without ever having heard of a safe room. The rest of them act like a bunch of monkeys.
Take Jason Bateman as a cocky fool who puts on a rubber glove in front of a Saudi soldier and calls him "a big queer." Or Chris Cooper as a fed moaning about his work or Jeremy Piven as an obsequious U.S. diplomat, telling an FBI woman to "dial down the boobies" in the presence of the Moslems, which brings us to the most implausible character in this show, a forensics examiner (Jennifer Garner) who talks like a foreign policy pundit and pumps lead like a trained marksman.
Toss in the FBI's Saudi Arabian contact (Ashraf Bahrom) who cooperates (up to a point) in tracking down the bombing culprit, which renders his character's outcome completely predictable, Moslem family montages that make living under an Islamic dictatorship look like an episode of Leave It to Beaver, four overused Chevy Suburbans, lollipops, worry beads and a fed wearing a punk rock t-shirt and there you have it: happy Arabians kneeling to Allah ravaged by wisecracking, gun-toting, rock-n-roll Americans.
At a certain point, the radical Moslems—who could not possibly mobilize in this dictatorship without cooperation from Saudi Arabia's government—hit the U.S. again, prompting the movie's climax, one of the most ridiculous on screen this year. With utterly no discernible objective, the feds and their Saudi controller follow the attackers to their headquarters. Bedlam ensues.
By the time the useless FBI operation is finished—this part Berg got right—virtually nothing has been accomplished, because picking off terrorists one at a time is not a substitute for waging war against an enemy that seeks to destroy the United States of America. All but endorsing the view that America's presence in Islamic states, which not incidentally created the source of their wealth, caused the September 11, 2001 attack, The Kingdom offers more of the same anti-Americanism by and for Americans.
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