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Review

Action packed, star studded ‘Kingdom’ tackles terrorism

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October 4, 2007

While such post-9/11 films as “The Guys” and “Reign Over Me” were more dramatic character pieces about attempting to move on past that horrible day, “The Kingdom” attempts to merge that volatile environment with the spirit of a shoot-’em-up action flick.

It’s a premise that’s extremely tricky to pull off, but in the end, “The Kingdom” manages to tackle this touchy subject matter in the form of escapist entertainment. It’s not as smart as it thinks it is, but at least not terribly exploitative either.

The U.S. has been dealt a crushing blow after an elusive terrorist executed not one, but two successive bombings at an American housing compound in Saudi Arabia, mercilessly slaughtering oil company workers and their families.

FBI agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) is ready and willing to lead the agency’s investigation into the incident, only to confront a flurry of red tape preventing him from stepping on Saudi soil.

After a little finagling, Fleury manages to gain his team (Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper and Jason Bateman) acceptance to carry on their investigation a little more closely.

They have more than a few tight conditions to work under, particularly a five-day window to see what information they can gather, a situation the team must find a way to work around in order to not only track down the brains behind the bombings, but to also combat an impending threat growing against them.

After a jarring opening sequence and a brief history of Saudi Arabia’s rise to power, “The Kingdom” settles into being a swift police procedural with a nice “stranger in a strange land” glaze.

The story addresses such intriguing topics as the presence of an American law enforcement team reflecting on the Saudi royal family, not to mention one of the agents being a woman.

These themes are fleetingly touched upon (and pretty much discarded completely during the movie’s “bullet the blue sky” climax), but director Peter Berg pays them enough attention to earn the viewer’s interest.

All of this is accomplished at a near-breakneck pace that makes the time fly by pretty darn fast.

While Berg proves to be pretty adept at capturing an edgy atmosphere and even ending the film on a realistic note, “The Kingdom’s” cast is a little bit more of a mixed bag. Foxx gives a solid and compelling turn as the lead FBI man on the case.

Cooper is his usual awesome self, bringing a sense of experience and wry humor to his role that the man has gleaned from years of playing memorable supporting characters.

Garner, on the other hand, doesn’t get to do much except hold a gun and wolf down Tootsie Pops, and Bateman’s character could’ve been scrapped altogether.

One could say that because of the nature and environment at the time of its inception, “The Kingdom” lucked out on getting to carry around some extra thematic baggage, but as is, the flick is still a very rousing, intense and skillful action flick.

A.J. Hakari is a student at UW-River Falls.