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Cultures Clash, Worldviews Collide in The Kingdom

  • Eric Rice Contributing Writer
  • Updated Dec 21, 2007
Cultures Clash, Worldviews Collide in <i>The Kingdom</i>

DVD Release Date:  December 26, 2007
Theatrical Release Date:  September 28, 2007
Rating:  R (for intense sequences of graphic brutal violence and for language)
Genre:  Drama/Mystery/Thriller
Run Time:  110 minutes
Director:  Peter Berg
Actors:  Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Ashraf Barhom, Ali Suliman, Jeremy Piven, Richard Jenkins, Kyle Chandler, Frances Fisher, Danny Huston, Kelly AuCoin, Minka Kelly, Amy Hunter, and Ty Burnett

In Saudi Arabia (The Kingdom), a terrorist cell executes a daring attack on the American compound with devastating results.  The compound is a “Little America” for workers in the heart of the strictly Muslim country.

While playing a game of softball, a team of terrorists dressed in local police uniforms storm the compound, spraying machine-gun fire at everyone in sight, killing many.  One policeman bravely crashes his truck into the assailant’s truck to stop the slaughter as another terrorist, dressed as a policeman, calmly directs everyone to come toward him to safety, wherein he shouts, “God is good!” in Arabic and blows himself and dozens of Americans to pieces.  As the first responders arrive, a second huge car bomb is detonated, killing over forty police officers and anyone else who survived the initial carnage.

Back at FBI headquarters, Special Agent Ron Fleury (Jamie Foxx) is recoiling from the horrendous pictures playing on his TV monitor.  Quickly gathering his best folks (Chris Cooper as Grant Sykes, Jennifer Garner as Janet Mays, and Jason Bateman as Adam Leavitt), he plans on flying a team of ace FBI agents to Saudi Arabia to find out what happened and help track down the criminals.

The problem is that the Arabic “kingdom” is very sensitive to having Americans on their soil, making them look bad.  The leaders turn down requests from the FBI, and the U.S. State Department denies them permission to go since Washington is sensitive to the shaky relationship with Saudi Arabia.  This doesn’t stop Agent Fleury, who finds a way to threaten a Washington Saudi representative, who caves in and gives them five days to work in the country with a total of five agents.

Jumping at the opportunity, Fleury and his team find navigating the cultural  and political landscape very difficult, and the clock is ticking! Frustrated and afraid of losing the terrorists, Fleury must learn to work with the local police Colonel Faris Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom), who is as frustrated and angry as the FBI agents. Expecting another attack at any moment, the two hard-nosed men must find a way to trust each other, work the system, and get the intelligence and clues they need.

As a seasoned, cynical explosives expert, Chris Cooper’s character encourages scientific methodology to find clues.  Jennifer Garner is the forensic pathologist who searches for clues in the bodies of the deceased, and as an “infidel” and a woman she’s not allowed to actually touch the Muslim dead.  Jason Bateman provides the comic relief, playing the hesitant one-liner-spouting sidekick.  With everyone’s careers and lives riding on the line, this mixed team has to quickly learn from each other, be sensitive to each other’s culture and stop a deadly terrorist cell.

The Kingdom is directed by Peter Berg (also an accomplished actor) with skill. He uses the camera masterfully, sometimes going handheld to increase tension at other instances. He uses close-ups to convey messages between people when words won’t work.  The film has the flavor of the Michael Mann’s Collateral and Heat films, which were as masterfully crafted as this one.  The action scenes are amazing and the pacing is good.  There are car chases and lengthy gunfights, with plenty of RPGs (Rocket Powered Grenades) impacting with a roar of smoke and flying debris.

The underlying theme repeated again and again is that all people are basically alike with the same loves, hates and desires.  The Saudi policeman and the American FBI agent both love their children and hate terrorists.  The problem is that the film tries too hard to make Islam noble and beautiful.  Can’t we all just hold hands?  A film showing just as many scenes of praying, kneeling and supplication in an American church would never get made.

If you can get past the political correctness lesson, you will be able to see a hard-charging, heck of an action-thriller movie. But just know that The Kingdom has its R rating for violence and language.  (The keyboard macro with the “F’” word must have been stuck in the “on” position while the writer penned the screenplay.)

For these reasons, The Kingdom is definitely an adult movie.  Do not bring the kids or anyone who is sensitive to scenes of bullet-riddled bodies.


  • Drugs/Alcohol:  None.
  • Language:  Excessive, with dozens of obscenities and profanities.
  • Sex:  None
  • Violence:  Multiple shootings, murders, excessive violence, explosions.
  • Worldview:  Humanistic: Man can accomplish anything if we work together.