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-The Kingdom (R)

by Dr. D ~

Universal Pictures, September 2007, Directed by Peter Berg, 110 minutes, Cast: Jamie Foxx (Ronald Fluery), Chris Cooper (Grant Sykes), Jennifer Garner (Janet Mayes), Jason Bateman (Adam Leavitt), Ashraf Barhom (Colonel Faris Al Ghazi), Ali Suliman (Sergeant Haytham), Jeremy Piven (Damon Schmidt), Richard Jenkins (James Grace), Danny Huston (Gideon Young).


The movie starts with a lengthy historical introduction to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Then it switches to a scene in a community park with a baseball game in progress, folks picnicing and children playing. It could be a picture from any small town in middle America, but this community is in Saudi Arabia. As the camera scans the area, you finally see that there is a wall surrounding it with Army guards stationed at the gate.

Soon the placid scene erupts as terrorists storm the gate and begin spraying the park with machine gun fire. Before it is all over, a huge bomb explodes and more that 100 men, women, and children are slaughtered including a FBI agent.

The FBI is notified and put together a team to help the Saudis get the bad guys. At first the Saudis do not want help and the American diplomats oppose sending a team. Finally after some diplomatic arm twisting, a FBI investigating team lands in Saudi Arabia and are promptly locked in the community gym and allowed to only look at the site but not really touch or investigate.

Finally after meeting with a Saudi Prince, the American team is allowed to proceed and do end up getting the ‘bad’ guys. That is the story in a nutshell.

There is some fine acting done in this movie by Jamie Foxx who plays the part of the FBI team leader, Chris Cooper who is the bomb expert, and Ashraf Barhom who plays the Saudi Colonel who is supposed to ‘babysit’ the Americans.

Cultural contrasts are a major part of the story. The Muslim religion and culture is on display by Saudis but the Americans do not show any religious connections at all. Jennifer Garner plays the part of a woman FBI agent who is part of the team and seems to be constantly out of place and has no clue about the Saudi culture and their idea of proper decorum.

The last 20 minutes is non-stop action and worth the price of admission. The ‘bad’ guys do go down at the end and the team returns to America as heroes.

This is one of only a few Hollywood movies lately about the War on Terror which isn’t filled with some kind of political, anti-war, or anti-military message. The writers do spoil it all at the end with a equivocating statement to placate all their film industry friends.

With his dying breath, the terrorist leader says: "We are going to kill them all"; then they flash back to a statement from the FBI team leader saying the same thing: "We are going to kill them all".

However, the actual actions by these two leaders demonstrates a considerable difference in what they actually meant by the statement. The terrorist bomber did try to ‘kill all of them’ in the Western community– men, women, and children. While the FBI team only ended up pursuing and killing the terrorists and in the process took considerable care not to harm the women and children who were part of the terrorist families.

This was a good movie and I highly recommend it. There was a balance here between action, violence, and thoughtful cultural engagement. *Top

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