Friday, October 12, 2007

Movie Review: The Kingdom

Movie Title: The Kingdom
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman, Ashraf Barhom and Jeremy Piven
Directed by: Peter Berg
Genre: Action/Drama/Thriller
My Rating: 8/10

Summertime is over and early Fall movies are here. This doesn't mean the worst movies are released, but definitely not the heavily crowd-gathering kind. The goal for movies released in this period are to make money at the box office mostly due to less competition. Kingdom isn't exactly a masterpiece or a classic-to-be, but far away from disaster, moreover. The occasional bouts of action and suspense kept one awake well during the flow dominated by thought processes for basically nothing.

Irregularly, I started appreciating this film right from the opening credits! Yes, they have the so-and-so presents, a so-and-so film, editor: so-and-so, but in between the credits they showed the proven and factual parts of the history of Saudi Arabia ever since monarchy came into power in the early 20th century, followed by the discovery of oil, and the Arab-American joint venture for oil digging (ARAMCO). That followed the unbiased summaries of how the US-Saudi relations got stronger through the years and minor political snippets similar to what you may have seen in Fahrenheit 9/11 without the bashing.

The actual movie starts with a social softball game on an American compound in Saudi (probably oil workers/engineers) and a bomb blows up killing many. An American team of 4 FBI-ers is sent to investigate the same in the ultra-hot, ultra-conservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The team comprises of an investigator (Foxx), a bomb-expert (Cooper), a forensic specialist (Garner) and an intel gatherer (Bateman). Good casting. Jamie Foxx now commands a strong screen presence ever since his Oscar win, and did great justice to his role. Garner wasn't exactly the ALIAS girl we know well, but a humble and less-talky geek girl who can kick ass if the occasion arises. Cooper was under-used, but filled his shoes just fine without an extra sole, and Bateman did what he does best. Joke around. He didn't exactly transition to a serious role in this very serious movie, but provided the momentary comic relief which wasn't mistimed at all. Witty sarcasm can always be a good addition to a thriller of a movie.

Middle Eastern actor Ashraf Barhoum impressed as the local cop (titled a Colonel though) who was assigned to escort this team. Jeremy Piven plays a suck up the Prince who's a partner of the oil digging firm. Seriously, after playing Ari Gold on TV's Entourage and winning so many awards for the same, and landing a leading role in Smoking Aces - Piven could have thought better than being miscast for this role. Come on, he can put the a back in a-hole.

Conspiracy theorists won't be adding anything to their bank of theories by watching this movie. Haters will less likely to hate more too. An average and sensible movie appreciating guy could just enjoy this movie like any other action thriller. I have thorough respect for a screenplay where facts are not bent for bias.

8/10 - won't make a bad rental or Netflix queue member. You will need at least half a good stomach to watch this, when compared to a real war flick like Black Hawk Down.

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