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:: The Kingdom

Take it back to school. In a playground situation, the FBI guys would be the ‘cool’ kids. Pint sized, wearing sunnies, acting but mainly talking tough. Interrogating other kids, examining squashed frogs as ‘evidence,’ and tomboy girls playing rough. Now picture these kids grown up and fulfilling their dreams, and you have agents Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) and Sarah Reid (Jennifer Garner). The kids have grown up and finally, they are FBI agents.

In The Kingdom, the FBI have serious business in Saudi Arabia. Case to solve? They must find who has behind some recent terrorist attacks in five days. Not to be a spoil sport, but it does paint the FBI in a very patriotic though perhaps unrealistic light. In real life, would the FBI be able to solve a huge case in five days? Also, just to pick at little stuff, why five days? Why not four, or six? Are very serious cases usually solved from Monday to Friday, so that men can still play golf on Saturday?

From the way it starts, The Kingdom has the feel of a documentary. A brief history of the Middle East establishes credibility, and unlike in real politics, oil is mentioned and established as a clear motive for some of the turmoil. But it’s not a documentary, and while it has the feel of a very serious film, it is still a Hollywood movie.

There is still the golden pair of main actors, the initially seeming sensitive but mostly arrogant Jamie Foxx, and the action loving, yet looks good in tight camo Jennifer Garner. For Garner, this is not really stretching her character capabilities, because she is the star of Alias and plays a similar role, in a similar genre. However, she is needed to depict a token ‘free’ women in a suppressed country so that cultural differences relating to different treatment of women can be highlighted She is outraged that she is not allowed to accompany her fellow FBI agents to the male only dinner at the Royal Family’s palace, that sort of thing.

Foxx is great at serious acting, look at ‘Ray’. Yet, there is something lacking in his performance in the film which probably is not actually his performance, but his assigned character. Agent Fleury is highly intelligent, but arrogant, and unlike in his award winning Ray, where his pride was tempered by hardships, Foxx is arrogant in the role, and it doesn’t suit.

The best character of the movie is Colonel Al-Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom) This role of a Saudi general is played very well, and while Al-Ghazi seems like a baddie initially, he is really a goodie underneath and is on the side of the Americans. And just to clarify, the Americans are the goodies and the Saudis are the baddies. There are, some cringe worthy moments in the film where the FBI agents are educating Al-Ghazi on what’s popular culture, teaching slang, etc. The way this is portrayed reeks of a Borat moment, a few cheap laughs at the expense of a foreigner trying to be “down with it.” Jokes of this kind now fall into the unoriginal category. Yet, The Kingdom is such a sober movie, that some humour, albeit attempted, comes as a relief.

The film is so serious, you can’t help but compare it to the successful spoof of Team America, although the difference being that The Kingdom is not a spoof and is very serious. Yet, this tiny speck of what Team America was made of is relevant in The Kingdom, in the way that a superiority complex, though slight, seems to be naturally embedded in Americans to attitudes to foreign cultures.

The movie is violent. Remember, films don’t just get rated R rated in the United States willy nilly. If you are squeamish, or don’t particularly enjoy bullets, cutting, shooting and bleeding, maybe don’t watch the last half an hour. It’s anomalous, the way the violence is condensed into a sensational half hour finale. It was about this time that I was happy to take a bathroom break, and take my tranquil time applying layers of hand cream, hoping that the senseless and pumped up violence had subsided. It had not.