The Kingdom embeds a thorough investigation to strike an explosive third act. Saudi Arabia. The kingdom of oil. Lucrative resources dwell deep beneath the dusty landscape. Percolating through the cracks of endless warfare. Radicalism is a subject often sensationalised in Hollywood productions. A chance to release that odorous stench of nationalist patriotism by emphasising the current war against Jihadist extremism. Occasionally, this divisive tone can flip a feature’s purpose on its head, however Berg manages to implant sympathetic perspectives within fellow Saudis to create a semi-balanced style throughout. A small FBI team are placed in Saudi Arabia to investigate a terrorist attack against an American neighbourhood, but must adapt to the rules set in place by the governing Saudi police force.
Should’ve called this “CSI: Saudi Arabia”, Foxx wears the shades and everything. The political hostility, particularly post 9/11, between America and Saudi Arabia increases significantly upon each passing year. A growing hatred manifests within extremists for those who abolish the thought of Allah, as they specifically target white nationals. Unfortunately, it’s a war that sees no end. With all this raucous bloodshed that paints the derelict neighbourhoods, new generations seek to inherit the burden that their murdered fathers shared. “We will kill them all”. Berg’s thrilling conclusive act ends on a poignant note, with both sides of the Atlantic exerting the same quote. Signifying no end to this unruly battle, killing thousands of innocents in the process. It was at this point in the feature where The Kingdom truly became a window into the violent world we live in. Providing commentary to the current political standpoint that America embellishes.
Unfortunately, it took an entire hour and a half to reach that level of poignancy. The preceding events played out like an investigative drama, especially the introductory presentation that resembled a Wikipedia article, shaping spiky relationships between the recruited FBI team and local policing figures. The entire story is depended upon the central partnership between Foxx and Barhom, where both souls put aside their differences to combat a common goal. Alas, Berg’s hectic direction meant that this bond was underdeveloped and played out at a pedestrian pace, juxtaposing the urgency of its brilliant conclusion.
The investigation itself lacked any thrills, failing to directly involve the audience. This is due to Berg constantly switching between each FBI member (aside from Bateman who was seemingly ostracised at this point) and depicting their actions. Cooper is swimming in muddy water searching for vehicular remnants, Garner is examining dead bodies and Foxx is, well, playing it cool I guess? Each component works well independently but never came together as a cohesive investigation. A frustrating qualm as the overall experience is highly engrossing, and as I said, concludes with a mighty bang! Performances were all functional. Production design was excellent, with limited visualised effects. Oh, and did I forget to mention how excellent that third act was?
The Kingdom, much like its title, is grand in nature. However, by focusing on a smaller scope to depict the war on terror, Berg hampered his chances in satisfyingly illustrating both sides of the conflict. An underdeveloped central “friendship” truly was the worst crime here. But that third act though...