The Kingdom, void of knights, fairies, or unicorns this tale of a Kingdom could possibly have used some just to spice it up; though the action is intense.
The Kingdom was directed by Peter Berg, an actor/director/producer that I will always remember for his role in the 1989 horror film Shocker. The main leads consist of Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman, and Ashraf Barhom. However, there are many recognizable actors who weave in and out in smaller roles, such as Jeremy Piven. The director and these actors have come together to tell the story of a group of FBI agents sent to Saudi Arabia, against protest, to investigate a terrorist bombing against a compound of American citizens.
The opening of the film is a non-fiction sort of tutorial regarding the relationship between the USA and Saudi Arabia, however the story is a work of fiction. Thus my silly opening statement in regards to entertainment value, if it was going to be fictional, I personally could have used a unique angle of interest to give the film more of an edge. Overall it is quite solid as it is, just not memorable in terms of content.
The acting is all top notch, with my special kudos being reserved for Ashraf Barhom who played a Saudi police official. He had a unique look to him that stood out and his character was quite likeable. However, even with good acting, I hate to say it, but most of the roles were disposable. What I mean by that is you could have taken almost any actor, put them in the part, and they would have done an equally great job. All of the actors were great and I am not trying to be negative, but it wasn’t a piece to really stretch their talents per-say. Some of the minor characters ended up being more interesting for me on the acting scale, for example Jeremy Piven’s small role or some of the people playing Saudis.
The opening violence is an attention getter for sure. The film busts out with a horrible scenario involving the terrorist act, and the message of the film is touched on and then ultimately exposed fully by the film’s conclusion. This was handled very well, the story is told exactly as it should have been regardless of my call for unicorns. However, after the opening Berg seems to rely on a lot of facial close ups and angles to try and squeeze emotion out of the cardboard cut out characters. The middle part of the film is where nothing stand out too unique and the filmmaking formula seems to rely on just that: “a filmmaking formula.” One can pinpoint every spot where comic relief or plot turn is going to occur before it does, giving more credibility to the cardboard statement. None of the characters feel new in such a way for as example Bateman’s: he is an obligatory comic relief figure with the small witticisms and jokes, however, when he is later put into a serious situation I did not exactly feel for him all too much because the depth level of interaction with these characters beyond the standard wasn’t there. Jamie Foxx and his interaction with children became a theme that almost set him apart from this aspect; Garner relied on tears and Cooper on being a “good ole boy.”
The ending takes the action from the opening and ups it one notch or two, however, not losing that “shot on a studio lot” sort of feel. The small earlier things noted by this point had taken me out of buying into the fantasy. Jennifer Garner gets to take part in one of the most violent fight sequences of the film and hands down the best scene garnering applause from the audience upon conclusion, but then they tried to slip in all too predictable laugh during the bloody moment to ruin the vibe.
In conclusion: great opening, action-packed ending, but the most interesting characters are not the leads and the story needed something more special to get it past the stage of “run of the mill” mediocrity. Neither horrible nor great, The Kingdom falls into the middle spectrum of movie watching experiences and is worth watching once, but is something forgettable in the long run.