Friday, October 12, 2007

Review: The Kingdom

The Short...
Feels like a watered down version of a more interesting film with added action. Fans of 24 will lap it up.

The Long...
I sat down to The Kingdom with the fear that it would turn into a pro-American rush to the head with added extra Middle-Eastern stereotypes. Luckily, this isn't the case as the film does it's best to serve both sides equally and ultimately tries to convince us that, save for culture, both sides are indistinguishable from the other.

It begins with an impressive credits sequence detailing the history of American relations with Saudi Arabia and leads to a savage attack on an oil workers colony in Ryiadh. This sparks an investigation team of 4 FBI agents to head to Saudi Arabia with the intention of bringing the man behind the attack to justice. Once there, they encounter the Saudi police and military who do not feel that an American presence is necessary and do everything possible to hinder their progress.

While not entirely sympathetic to either side the film does have a tendency to play the America-is-smarter-than-you card (watch out for a silly piece of dialog as Chris Cooper's character asks a Saudi if he knows what clues and evidence are) which comes off as being slightly arrogant. The story itself is entirely uncomplicated and exhibits a definite urgency to be a Syriana for the MTV generation. And this brings me to a point where the film will be either a piece of entertainment or a horrible and disgusting fable born out of a Hollywood that wants to capitalise on post-9/11 fears.

Essentially, I find it to be the latter. Some will disagree, but I believe that it's really an action film that tries it's best to be current and meaningful, while failing at doing both. Yes, the action is well executed, but using such a volatile backdrop in a way that comes off as frivolous and half-hearted doesn't sit well with me at all. I can't help but think that if the setting had been changed (even to a totally fictitious
country) then we'd have a film that would at least be a decent thriller.

The final scene where the The Kingdom's core message is delivered is not so much revealed to the audience, but shoved down our throats. It does it's best to be fair and balanced, but is thrown off course by a story that is both irresponsible and lazy.

Rating: * * (2 stars)

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