Local opening date: 9/28/207
Reviewed by Diane Carson
risk alienating segments of their potential audience if they advocate a
specific point of view. So Hollywood
has honed the fine art of throwing bits and pieces to diverse positions, hoping
ticket buyers will dismiss what grates on the nerves and embrace what reinforces
their position. That seems to be the hope for director Peter Berg's The Kingdom, a gratuitous exploitation
of anti-Saudi Arabia sentiment and the sharp
fear of terrorism. Since we can't dominate on the ground, let's win in the
And yet-- The Kingdom's
haunting, lasting message is that revenge leads to revenge, and retaliation
begets retaliation and it will never end. But before this poignant reminder
arrives, The Kingdom will exploit
violent payback fantasies and reinforce Americans as the smartest, toughest,
greatest combatants. Here's the scenario.
The Kingdom begins with a horrendous
massacre of American families stationed in Riyadh, enjoying themselves at a
picnic, playing softball-so perfectly iconic a scene, so heartless an attack,
so familiar from Iraqi news footage. But this time, it's in Saudi Arabia
and perpetrated against us with a Saudi terrorist watching the attack from a
distant building with a young boy. This is a parallel to Washington based FBI
team head Ronald Fluery (Jamie Foxx) who has a great, loving relationship with
his son. With a friend killed in the explosions, Fluery adamantly insists on
and leads a crack investigative team, played well by Chris Cooper, Jennifer
Garner, and Jason Bateman. They WILL find the perpetrators and make them pay.
On the Saudi side,
there are a few sympathetic men who fight alongside the Americans. But as the
plot develops, Americans target the Saudis with snide remarks and numerous
insults; for example, "Clues can be very useful in solving crime," the
Americans note to the Arabs. And, just as in every action genre from westerns
to the many wars idealized in films, the Americans shoot better and straighter
and kill many more in action packed sequences. Equally to the point, the packed
audience with whom I saw the film cheered out loud several times for Saudis to
be killed, for a catharsis of more blood letting. So goes the plea for peace
and The Kingdom's disingenuous tag
that the vicious circle leads only to more death. The Kingdom fans the flames of frustration and pain, gives a four
minute history lesson through the opening titles, and reinforces negative
stereotypes while offering no complex insight into the politics that got us
here in the first place. What a lost opportunity; what a waste of big money. At
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