The Kingdom (film)
|Directed by||Peter Berg|
|Written by||Matthew Michael Carnahan|
|Music by||Danny Elfman|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
The Kingdom is a 2007 action film directed by Peter Berg and starring Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, and Ashraf Barhom, with Kyle Chandler, Jeremy Piven, Richard Jenkins, and Ali Suliman.
The story follows a team of FBI agents who investigate the bombing of a foreign-workers facility in Saudi Arabia. Screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan has summarized the plot as, "What would a murder investigation look like on Mars?”
During a softball game at an American oil company housing compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, al-Qaeda terrorists set off a bomb, killing Americans and Saudis. While one team hijacks a car and shoots residents, a suicide bomber blows himself up, killing everyone near him. Sergeant Haytham (Ali Suliman), of the Saudi State Police, disables a stolen Saudi Police vehicle and kills the terrorists in it. The FBI Legal Attaché in Saudi Arabia, Special Agent Fran Manner (Kyle Chandler), calls his US colleague, Special Agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx), to advise him about the attack. Manner is discussing the situation with DSS Regional Security Officer Special Agent Rex Bura on how to secure the crime scene when an ambulance full of explosives is detonated in the compound; killing Manner, Bura and many others.
At FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Fleury briefs his rapid deployment team on the attack. During the briefing, Fleury whispered to Special Agent Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner), a forensic examiner, in order to calm her down when she knew the death of Manner. Although the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. State Department hinder FBI efforts to investigate the attack, Fleury blackmails the Saudi ambassador into allowing an FBI investigative team into Saudi Arabia. Fleury gathers Mayes, FBI analyst Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman), an intelligence analyst, and Special Agent Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper), a bomb technician, go to Saudi Arabia. On arrival they are met by Colonel Faris al-Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom), the commander of the Saudi State Police Force providing security at the compound. The investigation is being run by General Al Abdulmalik (Mahmoud Said) of the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG), who does not give Fleury and his team permission to investigate but only to observe the Saudi investigation.
The FBI team is invited to the palace of Saudi Prince Ahmed bin Khaled (Omar Berdouni) for a dinner. While at the palace, Fleury persuades the Prince that Colonel al-Ghazi is a natural detective and should be allowed to lead the investigation. With this change in leadership, the Americans are allowed hands-on access to the crime scene. While searching for evidence, Sergeant Haytham and Sykes discover the second bomb was detonated in an ambulance. Fleury learns the brother of one of the dead terrorists had access to ambulances and police uniforms. Colonel al-Ghazi orders a SWAT team to raid a house, managing to kill a few heavily armed terrorists. Following the raid, the team discovers valuable clues, including photos of the U.S. and other Western embassies in Riyadh. Soon afterward, the U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Damon Schmidt (Jeremy Piven) notifies Fleury and his team that they have been ordered to return to the United States.
On their way to King Khalid International Airport, Fleury grabs the wheel from Sergeant Haytham, which allows them to partially evade the collision of a speeding car with the first SUV in their convoy, setting off a trunk full of explosives. Their SUV, the third in their convoy, hits the second SUV causing it to roll. The fourth SUV drives up and the men inside pull out Leavitt, throwing him into the back and driving away while a second car drives by to shoot the surviving Americans. Fleury manages to wound one attacker, and al-Ghazi commandeers a civilian vehicle to chase the fourth SUV and the other car into the dangerous Al-Suwaidi neighborhood of Riyadh. As they pull up, a gunman launches rocket-propelled grenades at them and a fierce firefight starts. Inside the complex, Leavitt is tied up and gagged.
While Sykes and Haytham watch the entrance to the complex, al-Ghazi, Fleury, and Mayes follow a blood trail and manage to kill many gunmen inside. Mayes, separated from the others, enters an apartment to find a family with little children, their mother, and grandfather. She yells at them to stay put and goes across the hall to another apartment, where she finds Leavitt and his attackers. She kills the remaining insurgents, and al-Ghazi and the team start to leave. Mayes give the little girl a lollipop. In return, the girl gives her a marble, matching those pieced together earlier from the bomb scene. Fleury then realizes there is a trail of blood leading to the back of the apartment, and al-Ghazi sees the grandfather, suspects something, and asks to help him up in order to inspect his hand. When the old man gives him his hand, al-Ghazi sees that the man is missing the same fingers as Abu Hamza al-Masri in the terrorist group's many videos and confirms his suspicion that the grandfather is the terrorist leader. Abu Hamza's teenage grandson walks out of the bedroom and manages to shoot al-Ghazi in the neck twice with a pistol before it jams, then he starts to point his gun at Mayes, prompting Fleury to kill him. Abu Hamza then feebly pulls out an assault rifle and Haytham puts three shots in his chest. As Abu Hamza dies, another grandson hugs him and Abu Hamza whispers something into his ear to calm the child down. Al-Ghazi dies in Fleury's arms.
At al-Ghazi's house, Fleury and Haytham meet his family. Fleury tells his son that al-Ghazi was his good friend, mirroring a similar scene earlier in the movie wherein he comforted Special Agent Manner's son. Fleury and his team return to the U.S., where they are commended by FBI Director James Grace (Richard Jenkins) for their outstanding work. Leavitt asked Fleury and Mayes what he had whispered to her to calm her down. The scene cuts to Abu Hamza's daughter asking her own son what his grandfather whispered to him as he was dying. The grandson tells her mother, "Don't fear them, my child. We are going to kill them all," a similar line Fleury whispered to Mayes, implying that this is a never-ending, vicious cycle.
- Jamie Foxx as Special Agent Ronald Fleury, Team Leader
- Chris Cooper as Special Agent Grant Sykes, Bomb Technician
- Jennifer Garner as Special Agent Janet Mayes, Forensic Examiner
- Jason Bateman as Special Agent Adam Leavitt, Intelligence Analyst
- Ashraf Barhom as Colonel Faris Al-Ghazi, Saudi State Police
- Ali Suliman as Sergeant Haytham, Saudi State Police
- Jeremy Piven as Damon Schmidt, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy
- Richard Jenkins as Robert Grace, FBI Director
- Tim McGraw as Aaron Jackson
- Kyle Chandler as Special Agent Francis "Fran" Manner, Legal Attaché
- Frances Fisher as Elaine Flowers, Investigative Reporter, Washington Post
- Danny Huston as Gideon Young, US Attorney General
- Kelly AuCoin as Ellis Leach
- Anna Deavere Smith as Maricella Canavesio, Deputy National Security Advisor
- Minka Kelly as Miss Ross
- Amy Hunter as Lyla Fleury
- Omar Berdouni as Prince Ahmed bin Khaled
- Trevor St. John as Earl Ripon
- Ashley Scott as Janine Ripon
- Peter Berg as FBI Agent (uncredited)
Prior to filming, director Peter Berg spent two weeks in Saudi Arabia researching the film. Filming commenced July 10, 2006, on the west side of the old Maricopa County Courthouse in Phoenix, Arizona. Additional scenes were being filmed concurrently in Mesa, Arizona; the scenes at the American compound were shot at the Polytechnic campus of Arizona State University. In some of the trailer frames, saguaro cacti not native to Saudi Arabia are visible in the background. The scenes in the men's locker room at the beginning of the film were filmed in the men's locker room and detention area of the Gilbert Police Department. The FBI briefing scene was filmed in the media amphitheater/classroom in the same police building. The high speed driving scenes were filmed on Highway 202, which runs through Mesa and Gilbert, just prior to its opening for public use only a few miles from the ASU campus.
While shooting on location in Mesa, Berg was involved in a fatal accident that resulted in the death of another member of the production team. The SUV he was riding in collided with a John Deere Gator all-terrain vehicle driven by Nick Papac. Papac died three hours later. On August 8, 2008, Papac's parents Michael Papac and Michele Bell filed a lawsuit against the director, a driver, and the production company. The lawsuit was dropped in 2008. Filming resumed one day after the incident.
On-location filming took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates for two weeks in mid-September. Since Universal Pictures does not have an office in the Middle East, the production was facilitated by a local production firm called Filmworks, based in Dubai. Filming also took place at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi.
The film's production cost $80 million. The Kingdom was released on DVD December 20, 2007.
The film received moderate reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 51% of 180 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.8 out of 10. The site's general consensus is that "While providing several top-notch action scenes, The Kingdom ultimately collapses under the weight of formula and muddled politics." Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 0—100 reviews from film critics, has a rating score of 56 based on 37 reviews. Right-wing Weekly Standard columnist John Podhoretz called the film "perfectly paced" and "remarkably crisp and satisfying", arguing that it evokes the films The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Dog Day Afternoon, and The New Centurions. New York Times critic A.O. Scott called it "a slick, brutishly effective genre movie". He also stated that "Just as Rambo offered the fantasy do-over of the aftermath of the Vietnam War, The Kingdom can be seen as a wishful revisionist scenario for the American response to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism." Evan Williams of The Australian called it "an excellent thriller" and stated that it "may be the first Hollywood film to confront Saudi involvement in international terrorism."
New York Post critic Lou Lumenick stated that "Hollywood provides the Islamic world another reason to hate America with The Kingdom," calling it "xenophobic" and "pandering." AV Club critic Scott Tobias gave the movie a C, criticizing the movie's "queasy brand of escapism" by offering the audience the pleasure of "[w]inning imaginary wars" and giving an idealized portrayal of the efficiency of American intelligence. He says the film appeals to the audience's "basest instincts" and that, despite one sympathetic Arab character, the film could be tarred as racist. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly accused the film of "treating its audience like cash-dispensing machines". Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times called it "a slick excuse for efficient mayhem that's not half as smart as it would like to be." He added that "the film's thematic similarity to those jingoistic World War II-era 'Yellow Peril' films makes it hard not to feel your humanity being diminished."
Middle Eastern reception
Faisal Abbas, media editor of the London-based international Arabic journal Asharq Al Awsat, wrote on the newspaper's English website that "despite some aspects which might be perceived by some as negative, many might be pleasantly surprised after watching this film, bearing in mind that Arabs have for a long time been among Hollywood's favorite villains." Faisal concluded that "In all cases, the film is definitely action-packed, and perhaps Saudis and Arabs may enjoy it more than Americans, as events are depicted as taking place in the Saudi capital…and it is not every day that you watch a Hollywood-style car chase happening on the streets of Riyadh. For Westerners, the movie might be an interesting “insight” to a culture that is very different to their own."
In a review titled One good Arab for The Guardian, Palestinian writer Sharif Nashashibi says the film is one in a long tradition of Western works where Arabs are villified and Americans are portrayed as heroes, only bothering to add "a token Arab 'good guy'", equating good with pro-American, "to make up for the fact that the rest of the Arab characters are bad." All other Arab characters in the movie, he says, "are portrayed negatively - from the brutal, hate-filled, anti-western, religiously fanatical terrorists, to the inept, corrupt, heavy-handed, secretive and frustratingly bureaucratic Saudi authorities", as opposed to the "humanity, grief, compassion, determination, ability and patriotism of most of the American characters". He concludes that "The Kingdom perpetuates negative stereotypes for a quick buck and an adrenaline rush, at a time in the world where breeding such ignorance and prejudice has proven catastrophic." He also took issue with star Jamie Foxx's anti-Arab comments to the US press despite being "treated 'like royalty' in the United Arab Emirates" during the shooting.
Box office performance
The film grossed $17.1 million in 2,733 theatres in the United States and Canada on its opening weekend, ranking #2 at the box office. It also grossed £919,537 in the United Kingdom, about $1.9 million. As of December 15, 2007, the film has grossed an estimated $47,536,778 in the United States and $39,042,352 at the foreign box office with a worldwide gross of $86,579,130.
The film has been extremely successful in the rental market, including Netflix; grossing $77.4 million in the United States as of April 13, 2008.
The film had been banned in several Arab countries for claims of being biased against Saudi treatment with terrorism.
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- (Arabic: أبو حمزة المصري, Abū Ḥamzah al-Maṣrī) born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa
- The Kingdom's Peter Berg
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- One for the Good Guys The Weekly Standard
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- Official website
- The Kingdom at the Internet Movie Database
- The Kingdom at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Kingdom at Metacritic
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- The Kingdom at AllMovie
- The Kingdom exclusive movie trailer – Times Online
- Article about the banning of "The Kingdom" from Babylon & Beyond, the Los Angeles Times' Middle East blog