Kingdom, The (2007)

Rated: R
Grade: AFA/FA=A
Budget: $73 million
Box Office: $48 million US, $38 million int’l, $14 million DVD

Directed by: Peter Berg, who previously made Friday Night Lights (both the movie and several episodes) and The Rundown with Dwayne Johnson, otherwise better known as the one-raised-eyebrow wonder: The Rock.
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Ali Suliman, Jeremy Piven, Richard Jenkins, Tim McGraw, and Ashraf Barhom.

Summary: When terrorists launch a multi-stage attack on American civilians in the Aramco compound in Saudi Arabia, FBI investigators persuade the Saudis to let them investigate. They discover that doing so will be a lot more difficult than merely getting permission to visit the kingdom where oil, fanaticism, sharia, and freedom collide.

Entertainment Value: A
I watched three action movies over the weekend, one per day. This was the only one worth the effort, and thankfully I watched it last. From start to finish, this movie will captivate you because you want to know how it will go and you’ll be fascinated by the process of getting there. I will complain that the second half of the movie depends on a plot implausibility involving the motorcade, but it’s so good you don’t much mind.

Superficial Content: F
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sexuality A, Violence F, Language F, Illegality D
It’s a movie about terrorism and the gun-slinging response to it. This means that there is more than enough bloodshed and body parts to justify an R rating. Likewise, the language is regularly foul because tensions are quite high. The nice thing, so much as it is, is that the movie is sexuality free, other than a weird scene with Jeremy Piven telling Jennifer Garner to cover up while wearing a khaki t-shirt.

Significant Content: A/F
The main problem with this movie is that there is just enough of a hint of reproach and condemnation in it to ruin the rest of the movie. It’s like an outstanding meatloaf that someone added peppermint to and ruined. Since the director acted in Lions for Lambs and Chris Cooper is one of the stars, I’m suspicious. Nonetheless, if you ignore the hints at moral equivalence and take it for what it should have been, it’s a clear anti-terrorist movie, showing the utter evil of Islamo-fascist terrorism and also showing that the only, repeat only, response to it is the use of ruthless force. You simply cannot coexist with people who use children’s jacks and marbles as the shrapnel for IEDs, and our best partners in this war are the Muslims who also hate the evil in their midst. There are also themes about political cowardice and the importance of doing what is right with the time you have been given.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
The opening scene will bother you, and rightly so. They bring real terrorism to life and you will be outraged by the calculating evil of it. In fact, what I find so interesting about this movie is that, even though I have my questions about the makers’ motives, it serves the ultimate purpose of helping Americans. It’s simple. We need movies where terrorists are evil and where terrorists die, and this one fits that bill almost as successfully as the outstanding Denzel Washington masterpiece, The Siege. Also, the brief history lesson via a timeline in the opening and DVD extras is excellent.

Discussion Questions:
~What do you think the producers of this film intended for it to say? How do you interpret the final juxtaposition of the two opposite parties promising to “kill them all?”
~Can we coexist in any way with people who shoot up softball games and make bombs with jacks and marbles?
~Is it ever acceptable to hate? Is a movie like this which encourages us to hate our enemies in the war on terror a healthy thing for American Christians to watch?
~In the near-to-final scene, the Americans have the opportunity to kill the entire family of the terrorists. Would this have been a good thing to do? Did you find yourself wanting them to do so? ~Given the terrorists denial of the distinction between combatants and civilians, should we consider their family members as legitimate targets? What sort of perspective on the command to kill all the inhabitants of Canaan by God to Joshua and the Israelites does this give you?
~What do you think about our partnership with Saudi Arabia? Given that the extremist Wahabi Islam was involved at the outset of the country, is it realistic for us to envision a democratic Saudi? ~Evaluate Jeremy Piven’s character. Is he intended here as a symbolic representative of the entire U.S. State Department?
Overall Grade: A It’s just about everything you could expect from such a movie.

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