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STEPHEN'S MOVIE GUIDE

The Kingdom (2007)  rating

Review: written 2008

Somewhere between a movie and a political statement

The Kingdom (2007)

The movie sets out its stall right at the start, with the titles overlaying a potted history of Saudi so far, and how we came to the present time and the tenuous `alliance' between the US and Saudi. From there we have a terrorist event which takes place in Riyadh, targeting Americans, so that the FBI feel the need to send a team, led by Jamie Foxx, and including an unlikely but strangely believable crew including Jennifer Garner (Alias, Elektra) and Jason Bateman (Arrested Development). They have to work closely with the initially distant Saudi police colonel whose job it is to protect them.

What follows is akin to any of a number of TV `procedural dramas', overlaid with the political backdrop of trying to function in the unique environment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. That is, until the last act of the movie, which then becomes a straight, but very effective, action movie. Indeed, the action is some of the most thrilling seen for some time - while the hand held camera approach is somewhat annoying during the build-up and political backdrop being established, once in the action scenes there is a visceral quality to events that really make you feel part of the action. You can feel yourself ducking when the characters do, in effect.

Is it a politically aware movie spreading a message about Middle East relations? Well, yes and no. It is in most ways a straight-forward thriller, done fairly well. Indeed, once the action starts, you pretty well know how the rest of the movie is going to go. However, the Saudis are not just presented as two-dimensional bad guys, but a multi-tiered and multidimensional society, which is in itself an improvement on many other contemporary movies on a similar topic. And the final few minutes do espouse a level of political message not evident through the rest of the movie, allowing for some level of pondering and bar stool conversation after the movie has finished.

A decent thriller then, with just a touch of commentary on the subject of Saudi-US relations.





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