Great Action, Diluted Message
The Kingdom concludes with an extended action sequence that is absolutely brilliant in its execution. The sequence starts with a terrifically-filmed car crash and finishes about thirty minutes later with an explosion and heavy siege of an apartment building. It keeps you on the edge of your seat for the entire time; and yet, for some reason it just didn’t sit right for me.
Loosely based on the 1996 bombings of
Upon arriving in the Kingdom, the team is disappointed to learn that the Saudi government will let them do little more than walk through the crime scene, never armed themselves but always with an armed escort. They aren’t even allowed outside the American compound, even though crucial evidence certainly lingers beyond its walls. However, when one small piece of evidence leads to a big discovery, Fluery is able to convince one of the country’s many princes to let his team do a full investigation. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this quickly draws the attention of those responsible for the attack.
The first half of the film is a typical procedural murder mystery and then the film explodes with action in the second half. Director Peter Berg has proved in the past that he can film action with the likes of The Rundown and Friday Night Lights—and he does his best work here. In a typical, wham-bam action flick, the final set-piece would be the kind of sequence I could watch over and over again. It is wonderfully filmed.
Unfortunately, this is not a typical, wham-bam action flick. This is a serious, topical movie and I felt very strange about enjoying the action. Without giving anything away, there is a certain fight scene in the middle of all this action that got a rousing cheer from the audience. I didn’t feel like cheering.
I’d compare this film to a another released earlier this year, Shooter. In my review of that film, I commented that it was ironic that the protagonist went about proving his innocence by killing just about everyone he came into contact with. I was okay with it in that film, because it didn’t pretend to be anything other than a popcorn flick. The Kingdom is trying to be something more, and when the crowd cheered, I felt it had failed to achieve its goal.
There was certainly a lot I enjoyed about this film. The characters were interesting, the plot involving and, of course, the action entertaining. I also liked the point the film made about these two sides fighting each other not being as different as they might think. The last line of the film is haunting in this respect.
The film has been slow to arrive, due in large part to the deaths of three of its crew members. Now in theaters, I will be interested to see the reaction. If The Kingdom turns out to be a blockbuster, I’ll know that maybe I’m just too sensitive. Then again, I don’t deny that the film is a dazzling technical achievement. I just wonder if less might have been more in this case.
The Kingdom is rated R for “intense sequences of graphic brutal violence, and for language.” There are a lot of murder victims in this film, and the Americans prove their need for colorful language. The subject matter could also contribute to this rating.
Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of The Kingdom.