Peter Berg continues to be one of the most under-rated Directors working today, and “The Kingdom” is yet another film in his resume that is well worth your time.
Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman, Ashraf Barhom
With “The Kingdom”, Peter Berg is continuing to demonstrate what a versatile Director he can be, whether it be the comedy of “The Rundown / Welcome To The Jungle” or the look at small town life in “Friday Night Lights” – Berg has a sharp eye for talent, and he puts a lot of previous collaborators together for this one which results in a great action film with a conscience.
Opening with a brief overview of the discovery of Oil fields in Saudi Arabia, and the eventual formation of Saudi / American companies to oversee production, the film kicks into gear early on when a terrible attack on an American compound in Saudi Arabia leaves hundreds of people dead, and when the news hits the F.B.I., a team anxiously tries to get clearance to investigate the scene. Led by Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx), the group comprises of Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper) – an explosives expert, Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner) – the resident Forensics Investigator & Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman), the Surveillance Guru. Encountering stiff resistance from the local National Guard, and the local consulate member Damon Schmidt (Jeremy Piven) – Fleury finds an ally in Colonel Faris Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom), in his attempt to pursue the fanatical terrorists responsible for the carnage while dealing with the cultural & religious clashes on both sides of the fence.
Filled with some incredible action sequences that I haven’t seen used so effectively since “Black Hawk Down”, “The Kingdom” at times feels very much like Ridley Scott’s earlier effort – following the impact of the film’s opening minutes, it takes a very tense path for the first hour of the film, before all hell breaks loose during the second half. As I said earlier, Berg has worked with most people in the cast in some capacity, whether it be “Collateral” co-star Foxx, “Alias” alum Jennifer Garner, Jeremy Piven & Jason Bateman (“Smokin’ Aces”), even down to roping in Tim McGraw from “Friday Night Lights” (who is still just an incredible actor who should be used more & more, even from just his brief scenes here), along with Kyle Chandler & Minka Kelly form the TV version of “FNL”.
Although I had a great time all the way through the flick, I have to admit the only thing that put me offside especially during the end sequences was the patented return of “Shaky Cam” – which is normally not enough to put me off when it’s kept to a minimum & also still allows you to follow what’s happening on screen – but there are a few tense minutes with Jason Bateman’s character late in the movie that really bugged me – you get a sense of what is happening to him – but I dare you to give me the definitive answer on what is occurring during those few looooonnnnngggg minutes of seeing bump & shake going on.
Berg utilized the effect during some of the game sequences in “Friday Night Lights” – and I definitely get it in sports films – it drives some people insane no matter what the context, but I get when you’re trying to convey the weight & speed of a Gridiron match that it can be used sparingly – but the “Kingdom” scenes are a touch annoying – don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking Tony Scott “Domino” levels of annoying – just a shade over necessary.
Outside of that very minor gripe, the cast, who most of you will have come to know & love by this point now, all put in solid work – I love Chris Cooper’s take on the bomb expert – he’s responsible for a lot of the humor in the film, and he carries it well. Similarly Jennifer Garner & Jason Bateman do their stuff with what are essentially the supporting roles to Foxx & Barhom, but there is that definite “team” collaboration essence to it which Berg seems to do so very well – no-one is left behind in their chances to shine.
“The Kingdom” isn’t a political thriller in the vein of “Syriana”, but it doesn’t try to be by any means either. Instead, the script by Matthew Michael Carnahan tells an intriguing story of crime investigation, but gives you just enough action to satisfy the Michael Bay fan that we all have deep down inside. In my book, Peter Berg continues to be one of the most under-rated Directors working today, and “The Kingdom” is yet another film in his resume that is well worth your time.
Reviewer : Adam Weeks