Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Kingdom...a crowning achievement

The Kingdom - Peter Berg - 2007 - 9/10


A terrorist attack on U.S. citizens on Saudi Soil draws the personal attention of FBI Agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) who cuts every corner to make sure his team (Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman) gets on the ground despite the massive physical and political obstacles. Their liaison who has been tasked as more of a baby sitter, Colonel Faris Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom) tries to everything he can to help Fleury's team because he wants the men who killed his guards. The movie shows the different cultures that are strikingly similar as the team seeks to uncover the group responsible for the largest murder in modern Saudi history.


I'll be honest - I had low expectations for the movie. It started off with an efficient, audio and visual history of western involvement with Saudi Arabia using real footage and real audio from the different times as well as powerful quotes to convey a complex story in a few words. I thought the movie would be downhill from there, but I was wrong. The name "Peter Berg" flashed, reminding me that the creator of Friday Night Lights was at the helm. Actually that was just a shameless plug for my favorite TV show, and while Berg IS the director of the movie, the movie itself showed how great it was. I will take the time to praise Berg now though. His style from FNL shines through loud and clear - his attention to small story detail as well as close camerawork is evident - he even shows similar musical choices. The small story detail is a pleasant bonus because it brings life and personality to every part of the movie - the family scenes on both sides of search show the similarities - and differences between our two cultures. The political scenes are unbiased, yet show the political tiptoeing that is necessary in these issues.

The acting - all around - was very good. Which says a lot coming from me because I went into the movie thinking most of these actors (minus Chris Cooper) weren't very good. Jamie Foxx always annoyed me as his general personality does. Here he chose to act for once and played a good part. There were definitely scenes were the Jamie I hate was trying to rise to the surface, but this acting Jamie kept him down and played a good role. Jennifer Garner was good in her limited scenes causing me to consider that I might have given her a harder rap than she deserved considering I've started to notice how good she is in a couple movies. Chris Cooper was great as always in his few scenes - not much more to say on him that I haven't already said elsewhere. Jason Bateman was pretty good - clearly the weakest link of those four because he overacted in some parts. But it is what it is. The real scene stealer was Ashraf Barhom who was GREAT as Colonel Ghazi. I have a feeling that in longer cuts his family scenes were longer and more numerous but beggars can't be choosers. I'd like to say I look forward to seeing him in more movies, but that seems unlikely.

Generally I really enjoyed the movie. It was tense, fast paced, and different in the sense that it wasnt the guns-blazing movie I thought it would be. Berg's "blockbuster" was much more of just a solid movie that really took pains to show the culture clash as well as the American influence in Saudi politics and Saudi oil as well as the repercussions of those actions. When I thought about the intro while the movie was just starting I smiled at the fact that they had used their title sequence and a handful of minutes to do what Syriana did - except better and in a more entertaining way. That held true for the whole movie because the style was very similar to Gaghan fast-camera, multi point storytelling with the pleasing difference that there was a clear central story (and set of characters). That Gaghan chose a macro-issue (oil) in our relationship with the Middle East was brave but fatal. It accomplished less that what a microcosm could do. The Kingdom's smaller story that accessed the big issue in everyone's mind - terrorism killing westerners (yes, cliche, but unfortunately true) seemed to be a better route. And to think that The Kingdom did it in about twenty minutes less and in a much easier way only made me enjoy the movie more.

When my brain was churning about what I would rate The Kingdom I had almost decided on an "8" because I thought the movie was pretty much as good as it could be yet it didnt have the 9 and 10 level power that the classics do. Then two amazing scenes at the end made me realize that giving the movie less than a 9 would be ridiculous. Two scenes at the end - between Jamie Foxx and a Saudi boy and a parallel scene that involved Foxx and his team really brought the movie together. The positive similarities of our culture and the importance of US-Saudi cooperation as well as the negative similarities of how our cultures are so similar. That the movie made such a pointed argument about how violent both of our cultures are - and how true it was - really pushed the movie over the top.


Buy it now!

If you liked this movie, see...
...Three Kings

I'm back - kind of

Wow - no posts since January 27th! Any readers I had probably abandoned this sorry rag ages ago. Three months passed without a single thing written. Then again, I did find that my last attempt at blogging about politics was not published but saved as a draft (I just published it if anyone cared about reading a non-topical political rant). In my defense - I did THINK about writing one of these "i'm back" segments. School piled up, laziness seized hold of me, and I was killing myself trying to keep SaltyStix afloat. Which was painful because I wanted to write about other things - so much sports stuff to talk about - especially on the home front with the Cubs surging and then slumping and Alfonso's woes as well as the Bears pathetic season followed only by a pathetic offseason marked by the signing of two quarterbacks - that we already had! And then the Bulls' season coming to a close in a sorry disappointment, the departure of Skiles and a crazy job hunt. Not to mention all the DVD's I saw that I wanted to write about! I would say there was music, but that's mostly a lie. The only new music I started listening to was Eric Shiveley. Although I could have written about how purchasing old records of new faves (Kimya, Stars, and more) was sadly anti-climatic.

And now I'm off again - a school trip to Europe will keep me from my computer for a whole month! But I wanted to touch base - say my say about the above and write ONE article about a DVD I saw that made me really happy. But its been so long since I reviewed one here on the site that I have to look to check my formatting!
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