Directed by: Peter Berg
Premise: After an American housing facility in Saudi Arabia is bombed, an FBI response team works with Saudi officials to try and find those responsible.
What Works: The Kingdom combines elements of multiple genres, including espionage and political thrillers, police procedurals, and the western to create a hybrid that presents familiar scenarios in ways that are fresh and new. The film moves along briskly and the final act of the story is shot and edited extraordinarily well. The style of the film shows influence of producer Michael Mann, director of Heat and Collateral, but director Berg puts his own stamp on the material, conveying complicated expository information in effective and concise ways. The performances are also very well done, especially Jamie Foxx as team leader Ronald Fleury and Chris Cooper as explosives expert Grant Sykes, but the true standout actor of the film is Ashraf Barhom as Saudi Colonel Faris Al Ghazi. Although the civilian deaths cement the gravity of the story early in the film, the ongoing relationship between Fleury and Al Ghazi sustains the emotional center and gives the film more substance, allowing the westerner and middle easterner to overcome their differences and combine talents to combat terror. This relationship is a microcosm of western—mid-east relations and The Kingdom is able to delve into the subject, addressing some of the complicated issues on the Saudi side and the film admirably attempts to give more texture to the Muslim characters and their culture than is usually afforded to them in a Hollywood film, especially one dealing with terrorism.
What Doesn’t: For most of the film, The Kingdom only scratches the surface of the issues of terrorism and the consequences of retaliation. The film strives for the kind of complexity featured in Spielberg’s Munich, but the story is so limited in its scope that it is unable to accomplish that.
Bottom Line: The Kingdom is an exceptional film. Its action scenes are on par with the best action elements of the genre and the substance of the film gives the audiences more to chew on than other films of its kind. Although it cannot reach the heights of Munich, it certainly comes close and at least equals films like Clear and Present Danger.
Episode: #160 (October 8, 2007)