The Kingdom (2007)
My Rating : ****.5
Actor, writer, and director Peter Berg (FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS) delivers a fearless, action-packed political thriller with THE KINGDOM. Shot in the Middle East with unsettling immediacy, the hand-held cameras put viewers right inside the action, while the tension between American FBI agents and their Saudi counterparts maintains an interesting uncertainty about who’s “right” and who’s “wrong.” The bad guys, however, are unmistakable: the film opens with a brutal terrorist attack on an oil company compound in Saudi Arabia, where a visiting FBI agent is killed.
Back home in Washington, fellow agents Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx, RAY) and Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner, ALIAS), want revenge, and will do whatever it takes to gain access to the investigation. Fleury all but blackmails a Saudi prince to get clearance against the wishes of a timorous attorney general, and flies overnight to the scene of the crime. Accompanying him are the no-nonsense forensics expert Mayes, Southern-fried bomb authority Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper, ADAPTATION), and Jewish smart aleck Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT). Once there, they encounter the resistance of a Saudi government more interested in getting the Americans safely out of the country and avoiding conflict, rather than in solving the crime. They are assigned a smarmy handler with a weak stomach (Jeremy Piven, ENTOURAGE) to make sure they stay out of trouble. The team must navigate a maze of bureaucracy to begin collecting evidence, but they have an unlikely ally in their Saudi escort, Colonel Faris Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom, PARADISE NOW), a scrupulous and intelligent officer whom Fleury befriends. Soon enough, procedure and protocol give way to car chases and explosive fire fights, and the current bleak political climate of extremism and violence is portrayed in a stark light with no easy answers.