Movies – “The Kingdom (2007)”

A fast moving Iraq-War-era military action thriller.

An FBI team is sent to Saudi Arabia for a 5 day trip to investigate the head of a terrorist network who killed two FBI agents. Special Agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) heads the team rounded off by a hand-picked team of professionals: Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper), Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner), and Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman). On the Saudi side, Colonel Faris Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom) who escorts the FBI team in Saudi completes the cast.

The film captures the explosive pressures, the reluctant Saudi-American “cooperation” and love-hate relationship, and plots that bubble behind the scenes very well. This is an environment where you cannot trust a whole lot of people, including the Americans who live down there. Fear is as heavy as the heat.

As the FBI team gets off the plane, we hope and pray that they have what it takes to complete the mission successfully. This is a country of fast moving SUVs with darkened windows and constant monitoring, and tailing, and non-stop 24 hour vigilance. And every object can be another bomb with fuse ticking.

The camera is a character in itself in this movie. As it cuts from one close shot to another we are drawn into the heart of intrigue. A car approaching… is it friendly or not? A truck passes in the other lane, in the other direction. Did it stop and make a U turn? These are all the things that need to be watched closely. Security requires a healthy dose of insanity as well.

After the team walks into a hornet’s nest of an ambush and fights its way out we realize that this crew has what it takes; they are the tops in what they do. As Washington bureaucrats push and shove for political brownie points (with Danny Huston as Attorney General), the FBI team down in Saudi bravely sets out to do what they were tasked to do: to find the head of the network who took the lives of two of their friends.

The State Dept rep Damon Schmidt (played by Entourage’s Jeremy Piven) adds another level of complexity by his shallow efforts to manage and streamline the whole operation while shamelessly attempting to take full credit for its success.

At the end, the mission is accomplished but at a great human cost, and with lingering ambivalence about the worth of the whole exercise. Why? Because the head of the “terror network” turns out to be someone that you’d never associate with the word “terror.” So goes the complexities of our new fiery world.

We’re living in a very dangerous new geopolitical fishbowl and this film underlines its nerve-wrecking realities with very agile camera work, non-stop action — all filtered through a harsh bleached-out color palette.

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