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September 16, 2007

Review of "The Kingdom" From Dave At Garfield-Ridge

Dave sent this review. I hope it's okay to post it. After the review of the film he reviews the left's patriotism, which isn't really related but it seems like a good point.

Even though director Peter Berg had some comment like "I couldn't believe people were taking my movie jingoistically!," to be honest, I kind of like him, so I like to imagine that was said for career reasons. Sort of "Whoops, did I do that?"

Apparently he did wind up making a rather anti-terrorist, pro-American movie (even if that is muddied with the inevitable "bad on both sides" bullshit), and I'm assuming that didn't happen altogether by accident. Seems like a good movie.

Just wanted you both to let you know to check out The Kingdom once it opens. I saw it on a sneak Saturday night, and was really surprised at how effective it is. Yes, it's political-- more on that in a moment-- but as a "mere" action movie, it's pretty good, even excellent at parts. Yeah, it's basically CSI: Riyadh, but it's very precise, with only a handful of missteps along the way.

As for the politics, the movie opens with stylish-yet-clunky credits that explain the history of Saudi Arabia for all the morons who've never bothered to open up a history book. It had me worried there for a moment-- a lot of references to oil and politics made me wary that we were about to go into Kos Kid land-- but after that, the movie downshifts into police procedural mode.

That said, it's clear from the very beginning that these are radical Muslim terrorists at work (they're even identified specifically as Wahabbis!). They actually pray to Allah as they blow themselves up-- my mouth dropped at seeing that in a Hollywood film (which shows how wrong-headed Hollywood films are today, but you know that). There's a (very minor) moment later on in the film where our team discovers that the detonators used were American-made, but the point is dropped-- rather than leave it hang as a subtle reference to "blowback" (fair point, in my book), a lesser movie almost certainly would have taken that point and made all the terrorists pawns in an American plot to bomb the Saudi kingdom or some conspiratorial shit like that. Instead, the bad guys remain the bad guys, and I can't tell you how refreshing it was to see that.

Without giving anything away, the ending is almost too precious-- I expect a lot of the audience will walk away with the opinion, "Awwww, look-- big bad America created another terrorist, the cycle of violence is perpetuated, we really are the bad guys." But given everything that's come before in the movie, I think that the movie doesn't really show how we are all alike, but instead highlights our differences-- for us, innocent dead are tragedies to be avoided and mistakes have lessons to learn. For the bad guys, innocent dead remain a good day at the office.

My only problem with the movie-- Jeremy Piven plays an obstructionist (read: accuratel State Department guy in Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, he plays it in full on "Ari" mode, all jokey and back-slapping and stuff. Excuse me, I just can't see any senior diplomat, let alone one assigned to a place like Saudi Arabia, behaving at all like that. I like Piven, but it was just wrong, wrong, wrong-- bad casting choice, worse acting choice, and he sucked me out of the movie every time (mercifully few) that he shows up on screen.

Also, I guess it can be criticized for being a little too much like Friday Night Lights-- I absolutely love that movie, but directer Peter Berg uses a lot of the same directing style he used in that movie, and it felt a little out of place (or it made me feel like I was watching a football movie ;-). Also, he asked Danny Elfman to score The Kingdom exactly like the guys who composed the music for Friday Night Lights-- in fact, I was shocked to discover this morning that Elfman hadn't written the music for FNL, the scores are nearly identical in places. Guess Berg likes that music (so do I, but again, out of place in the movie-- then again, it's a welcome departure from yet another "Middle Eastern music"-influenced score in these kind of movies).

Anyway. . . just wanted to give the movie a shout-out. In a season sure to be dominated by Meryl Streep movies about the war (I knew she's in Lambs for Lions, but I also saw her in the hideously preposterous trailer for Rendition-- THAT movie looks like a comic book version of the real world), it was nice to see a movie that actually bothered to have us as the good guys, albeit good guys operating in a complex world.

As a tangent, that last point is one that grates on me when talking with Leftists, and even liberals-- whenever I argue that we're the good guys, they argue back that the world isn't black-and-white, good guys and bad guys, that everything is "much more complex than that." I then concede that OF COURSE the world is more complex than that, and the real world forces difficult decisions on us every day, and sometimes we have to play in gray areas-- but recognizing that doesn't change the fact that we are the good guys. They inevitably respond with the rejoinder, "Well, we're all bad guys then." But they never seem to understand that even if we are all bad guys, it's preferable to be a bad guy for our side-- for our homes, families, and nation-- than for the OTHER side.

But of course, to even acknowledge that there is an "other side" means you have to be patriotic to your side. And we mustn't question their patriotism. Just once, I'd like it if their patriotism didn't include the word "BUT" in a sentence, but I guess that's too simplistic for a complex world.

I just always find that whenever the issue of complexity is introduced by the Left, they use it as a way to end the argument, like "It's too hard, you silly jingos wouldn't understand, and if you did, you'd agree with me."

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posted by Ace at 01:31 PM

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