My thoughts on this one are a bit late, but it’s worth reviewing. Much has been made of the subject matter of this oh-so entertaining action movie. Dealing with oil, terrorism and Saudi/US relations, it certainly has its finger on the pulse. The opening title sequence conveniently sums up the history of oil in the Middle East, effectively culminating in the 9/11 attacks, and whilst a little gauche, it does get the information across successfully.
After an American facility is bombed, a team of FBI agents manage to weasel their way into travelling to Ridyadh to investigate. Matthew Michael Carnahan’s screenplay delves into not only the culture clash but also the immense amount of tension that exists on this bizarre American ‘island’ in the middle of a Muslim country. Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) and his group are unwanted intruders, pushing their way into the investigation.
The subject matter is handled delicately, but this isn’t really a subtle film. The team’s ‘investigations’ are pretty elementary, and the screenplay seems to suggest that the Saudi police are completely incompetent when it comes to a crime scene. There aren’t really many twists to speak of, either, so the majority of the film’s strength lies in its likeable and well-scripted cast. Chris Cooper is playing a role he’s familiar with, but it’s Jason Bateman’s performance that impresses the most – his first ‘serious’ role in years. It is for the most part comic relief, but we get a tantalising glimpse of his dramatic side, something we’ll hopefully see more of soon. Ashraf Barhom plays Colonel Al Ghazi, their escort in the ‘Kingdom’, and he and Foxx effectively get to represent American/Saudi relations. Most exciting of all, we finally witness Jennifer Garner doing a good job. I’ve always found her to be a bit of an automaton, but here she finally flexes some actual acting muscles.
After all the pussyfooting around the major issues, it’s kind of a guilty pleasure to get some kick arse action towards the end. The big action scenes are fantastic (one in particular reminiscent of the alley attack in Clear and Present Danger), and the use of hand held camera is perfect, never taking it too far as in The Bourne Ultimatum.
The Kingdom walks a fine line and succeeds. It is a thoroughly entertaining action movie and yet treats its subject matter with just enough respect and intelligence to not leave us feeling guilty.Rating: