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Customer Review

55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid, entertaining action with a splash of humanity, December 15, 2007
This review is from: The Kingdom (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
This movie is a beautiful and stunning rarity: a film where tough, competent, smart characters actually show real human emotions.

One of the investigators is kidnapped and nearly beheaded. He fights fiercely, taking a severe beating but saving his own life by delaying the filmed execution while he's subdued. When rescue arrives he fights his captors, while bound, with a dogged ferocity that leaves no doubt as to his action-hero cred. But in the moments when the blade is at his throat, there is no question that this man is terrified. After his rescue, one of his friends asks if he's all right. The hilarious and utterly truthful way he responds with an expression is one of the best-acted moments in the movie. And when the rest of the team moves in to confront the bad guys, he stays behind, sinking to the floor in quiet shock. A movie that doesn't show the tough action hero immediately grabbing a gun and rushing into battle without blinking gets my vote for something exceptional.

In an intense sequence near the beginning of the film, a young Saudi police officer (Sergeant Haytham) chases down terrorists machine-gunning civilian housing, rams their car, and kills both men in a shootout...a heroic task. In the confusion after the attack, Haytham is suspected of being involved, and a ham-headed General has him subjected to a brutal interrogation. He endures it as though it's something to be expected, but when you see him look at his colonel, Faris Al Ghazi (who is clearly troubled by the process) during the beating, there are tears in his eyes. Simple touches like this throughout the film take ordinary action-film standbys and normal action heroes, and elevates them into something more: believable, exceptional human beings.

When the FBI team receives word of a member killed in the attacks, Jennifer Garner's character starts crying. Throughout the film, she represents the best of tough female-agent norms (watch the fight when she rescues the kidnapped team member - dang!), but also portrays a woman with real female emotions.

There is real conflict and real friendship in the relationship the team, (Jamie Foxx's Fleury) develops with their Saudi "watcher," Faris Al Ghazi, a man who turns out to be a very good cop, a warm friend, and a nuanced human being. Scenes of him and the FBI team leader bonding as they drive through traffic discussing such things as The Incredible Hulk ring true and let the audience in on the careful affection that develops between them.

Al Ghazi is a classically American character, a good cop partnering up with an outsider to solve a irony considering he's the main Saudi character. But we Americans have a long history of love for that character, and - why not put that to good use? One develops a deep affection for Faris, and surely that can't be a bad thing for millions of Americans to experience.

Faris speaks quietly of 100 people killed who had woken up with no idea they were going to die, and says that if they find those responsible, he doesn't want to question them. He wants to kill them. Fleury agrees, and another step towards a bond of friendship is formed.

The expected is consistently handled with unexpected care. In one scene Al Ghazi informs Fleury that Garner's character will be excluded from an upcoming audiences with the prince that night at the palace - no women allowed. Fleury responds by ordering him to tell her himself. The often brash cop's manner as he opens the conversation with a gently awkward inquiry as to how her hearing is faring after an explosion is a surprising touch.

Is this film politically and socially realistic? I doubt it. But let's face it, this is a Big Hollywood Action Movie. It's a buddy cop film set in Saudi Arabia. But it happens to show human warmth, friendship, and fragility amidst the beatings and gunfights. It shows cultural tensions gradually peel away as respect develops between the characters.

Any movie set in the middle east (or, most movies made in the past couple years!) can be seen as commentary on Iraq, and I can't help but see more of Iraq than Saudi Arabia in The Kingdom. But the Big Hollywood Action edict rescues this from being cloying, preachy political commentary. This utterly American style of filming is almost like a wash of fresh air in such a politicized environment.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 10, 2010 9:10:37 AM PDT
Jason says:
I enjoyed your take on the film. Despite the political booby-traps, I, too, was struck by the humanistic side of a very difficult situation. Good review.

Posted on Nov 17, 2014 11:32:36 AM PST
soosh says:
i could not agree with you more over Jason Bateman's performance. It stayed with me (as well as the scene stealing Barhom's) and made me realize how he's a really overlooked actor. Excellent frantic portrayal.
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