THE KINGDOM

Peter Berg’s film exists in the real modern world of Arab-U.S. relations – one where car bombs go off on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis, gunfire regularly happens in front of family homes, and Americans and Muslims alike are killed violently when they least expect it. Although the film exists in this world, it is not a political statement, nor an emotional appeal on a human level (though those notes are sporadically struck). It basically boils down to an action-thriller with strong dramatic tendencies, and the cast and their director (of VERY BAD THINGS and THE RUNDOWN) are up to the task. It all starts with a bombing at a sports match, killing 100 U.S. and Muslim citizens (men, women, children) and escalates from there into a hunt for the perpetrators – a collaboration between FBI agents (Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner and wisecracking ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT alum Jason Bateman) and Saudi officials who want to cooperate. Foxx strikes up a rapport with the head Saudi officer in charge, and there’s real chemistry between them. The film is fast paced for a near two hour action drama, and the screenplay by Michael Carnahan (he also wrote Robert Redford’s LIONS FOR LAMBS, a genuine political thriller in the same season) is not full of lame cliches and annoyingly clipped testosterone-speak (at least not all the time). This makes for intelligent and enjoyable, if not too thought-provoking, fare ending with a chilling juxtaposition, and a disturbing (though seemingly benign) final image.

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