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The Kingdom
DVD disk
Dec 31, 2007 By: Quigles
The Kingdom order
Director:
Peter Berg

Actors:
Jamie Foxx
Chris Cooper
Jennifer Garner

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A team of FBI agents travel to Saudi Arabia to investigate the bombing of an American facility.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Part political thriller, part CSI-like investigative drama, and part explosion-laden action war flick, THE KINGDOM is an entertaining mess of a film that, while not quite knowing what it wants to be, certainly knows that all you have to do to toy with people's emotions is show children either dying or losing their parents. It fortunately avoids crossing the line of becoming overly sentimental, but nobody can deny its heavy-handedness. In another film, this could've easily been a more prominent issue—which is to say, had the film not been so reminiscent of a Hollywood popcorn flick.

Of course, this opens up a new issue entirely: can you really combine a terrorism storyline and "popcorn" entertainment into a film that avoids insulting our intelligence? In many respects, THE KINGDOM proves that you can, although there are also sequences that make sure to dumb the politics down for the audience as to keep everything as simple as possible. This definitely isn't the next SYRIANA, so don't go in expecting that. That's not to say the movie doesn't want you to think it is, as it actually tries several times over to regurgitate important messages that in reality have little to do with what's going on in the film—or to phrase it better, have everything to do with it, but don't matter since the film is better at making things blow up than offering insight.

An example of this is the very last conversation in the film, which is meant to make the point that we're all the same, and violence just begets more violence. I appreciate the line, and I appreciate the message, but what the f*ck does that have to do with what I just watched? A more appropriate message might be: "RPGs are awesome!" or: "Holy shit, look at that car flip over! Explosion! Bang bang! Car goes vroom! Chase sequence! OMG look out, a grenade! ...And oh yeah, by the way... WAR IS BAD."

As long as you can accept THE KINGDOM for what it is, it's actually a pretty fun ride. The best thing about it—hands down—are the actors. Aside from Jamie Foxx, the actual characters they play are almost painfully underwritten and one-note (Chris Cooper is the country boy, Jennifer Garner is the emotionally-distraught female, Jason Bateman is the sarcastic jokester, and Jeremy Piven is Jeremy Piven), but they all manage to elevate the material by always making the best of whatever minor character development they're given. It's the actors that give THE KINGDOM its dramatic weight, not the story.

P.S. Speaking as somebody who usually hates "shaky cam," please stop bitching about it. It got irritating maybe three times throughout the film, tops. So stop crying.
THE EXTRAS
A standard but solid collection of special features.

Audio Commentary (with director Peter Berg): If you're interested in basic behind-the-scene info and don't mind the occasional gap of silence, this commentary is for you.

Deleted Scenes (11:07): There are about 7 or so deleted scenes, the only one worth watching being the last (since it features some extra action).

Character By Character: The Apartment Shootout (13:49): This featurette allows you to watch all four characters separately during the final action sequence. Very cool.

Creating The Kingdom (35:30): Your standard making-of featurette. Split into 8 parts.

Constructing The Freeway Sequence (18:18): A featurette showing the ins-and-outs of the big freeway action sequence.

History of The Kingdom: An Interactive Timeline: A text-based lesson in Saudi history.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
THE KINGDOM is more entertaining in parts than it as a cohesive whole, and it handles the action more deftly than it does the politics. It serves a lot better as a way to kill a couple of hours than it does a thought-provoking viewing experience. So if that's your bag, and you're a fan of the actors, enjoy.
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