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Movie Review: The Kingdom

The Kingdom
Directed by Peter Berg
Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan

It looks like actor-turned-director Peter Berg has found his style.  After genre pics Very Bad Things and The Rundown, Berg went on to helm the excellent Friday Night Lights (which spawned the excellent TV show) which has an immediate style with shaky cameras and short zooms.  He continues this with The Kingdom, which is likely going to be 50-50 among critics this weekend.

And the reasons to hate The Kingdom will range across the board, but most will revolve around the political situations and how it will seem far-fetched.  And, well, I just don’t give a crap about plausibility in movies like this.  There is a limit, but it has to go above and beyond ludicrous.  It’s not a documentary, it’s an action flick with the troubled Middle East as a backdrop.  And does it do well as an action movie?  Yes it does.

Americans are living in a protected place in Saudi Arabia when terrorists dressed up as Saudi military sneak in and blow away a bunch of people, then setting off a bomb.  The chain of events leads to an FBI agent getting killed, and some people back home want to catch the bad guys.  Special FBI agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) works the political system to get a few FBI agents, including Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper), Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner), and Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman) into Saudi Arabia and investigate, but they are met with stiff resistance and danger everywhere they go.

Joining their fight is Saudi Colonel Faris Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom), who is chided for helping the Americans, but he’s mad because he lost friends in the attack, too.  Eventually, all of the clues lead to a former Bin Laden associate who is planning and coordinating attacks on his own.  Diplomat Damon Schmidt (Jeremy Piven) wants to get everybody the hell out of there before Americans get killed and/or get a black eye from the investigation.

The action is intense, the behind-the-scenes politics are fun (the scene with Richard Jenkins, playing FBI chief James Grace, squaring off against attorney general Gideon Young, played by Danny Huston, is wonderful), and it’s a satisfying drama.  Plus, you get some great comic relief from Jason Bateman, usual top-notch smarminess from Jeremy Piven, and supreme hotness in action-ready Jennifer Garner.  I don’t know what else I could ask for, really.

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