The Kingdom (Peter Berg, 2007)

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flyonthewall2983
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#1 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sat Dec 30, 2006 12:31 am


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Antoine Doinel
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#2 Post by Antoine Doinel » Wed Jan 03, 2007 1:57 pm

The casting is interesting, but it will really rely on the script. I wonder how much input Michael Mann had (he is given a story credit) on the script by Michael Carnahan (Joe Carnahan's brother) and whether it will give the film the complexity the subject deserves.

Right now, the trailer looks like Syriana meets Stealth.

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Antoine Doinel
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#3 Post by Antoine Doinel » Wed Feb 07, 2007 8:06 pm

The release date just got bumped from April to September.

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a.khan
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#4 Post by a.khan » Thu Feb 08, 2007 4:31 am

Parts of "The Kingdom" were shot here in the UAE.

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The Invunche
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#5 Post by The Invunche » Thu Feb 08, 2007 6:53 am

They probably had to digitally remove the construction cranes then.

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a.khan
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#6 Post by a.khan » Thu Feb 08, 2007 7:16 am

The Invunche wrote:They probably had to digitally remove the construction cranes then.
Ha ha, though Gaghan was able to make the infamous construction situation in the country a strong subtext in “Syrianaâ€

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The Invunche
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#7 Post by The Invunche » Thu Feb 08, 2007 8:44 am

Last time I talked about conditions for imported blue collar workers in UAE (and the rest of the gulf) I was branded a racist.

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Antoine Doinel
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#8 Post by Antoine Doinel » Mon May 14, 2007 6:15 pm

The new trailer adds in a "Produced By Michael Mann" over a brutal alternarock song, further proving that Mann's musical selections continue to be distractingly awful.

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CSM126
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#9 Post by CSM126 » Wed Aug 22, 2007 7:45 am

I caught a preview screening of this last night. I missed the first ten minutes or so, but it was pretty good. Not great or anything, but interesting. The acting is really good; not a bad performance in the bunch, and I could see Jamie Foxx getting some Award nominations for this. And this time he might actually deserve to win them, too.

The shakycam filming style is annoying as hell when you're obviously supposed to be focusing on something specific (like when they're collecting evidence from the scene of the bombing), but you can't because Michael J. Fox is apparently holding the camera and slipping at the same time. I don't know if that was supposed to give it a "feel like you're really there" vibe or what, but it nearly pulled me out of the scene a couple of times.

The writing, though, is good enough that it pulled me back in. There are some really nice scenes where we see people on both sides of the fight being 'regular people'. In particular Foxx's character and the Saudi officer he works with have a nice dialogue about why they got into the fight against terrorism. And even the Jihadists are shown being family people and friends, so it's a pretty even-handed film in that respect. These scenes don't move the story forward, but they don't drag it down either and they provide some good, human moments to counterbalance the scenes of violence and investigation.

So overall, I'd say I'd give The Kingdom a three on the four-stars scale. I may even go and see it again when it's released in the fall.

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#10 Post by amnesiac » Tue Sep 25, 2007 7:25 am

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS

I have to disagree with CSM126. This is nothing but bad propaganda, and it's not just flag waving propaganda, it also has a very unsubtle layer of racism. I'm amazed that Michael Mann put his name to this piece of shit.

The film

Prologue
The film opens strongly, with a "history of Saudi Arabia". It explained how/when Saudi Arabia was created, the oil crisis, and was somewhat critical of US government involvement in the region. I had high hopes from this point on, instead it just becomes your typical Hollywood good vs evil trash that we've seen countless times before.

The Plot
The plot is based on the Riyadh compound bombings which took place on May 12, 2003, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and the Khobar Towers bombing which took place on June 26, 1996 at the Khobar housing complex. - wikipedia

How it was portrayed in the film
The film opens with a baseball match. The sun is shining. The US flag is waving in the breeze. Kids and adults are having fun. Cut to: a group of Arabs on a building rooftop. One is watching the baseball match through binoculars, another is video taping it, and a young boy is with his grandfather who is waiting for a call. The call comes through and we see two Arabs kill two soldiers and steal their vehicle. They are spotted by Sergeant Haytham (Ali Suliman) who jumps in his car with his partner and pursues the terrorists. The terrorists open fire on the civilians playing baseball. Gunning down innocent children and parents. Sgt Haytham catches up with the terrorists and kills them both.

A terrorist disguised as a soldier is directing the civilians towards him. He blows a few more people away.

While this is happening, the grandfather is forcing his grandson to watch the slaughter.

Hours later there's a rescue/police operation. The FBI are on the scene (not Jamie Foxx and his crew). It's all very touching, the agent picks up a child's hat. He tears up and then BLAAMO! Another explosion! (those dastardly terrorists blew up an ambulance). This kills even more Americans.

How it really happened
According to wikipedia, the Riyadh compound bombings happened during the dead of night - 35 people were killed, and over 160 wounded.

The -isms
Arabs are sadists - General Al Abdulmalik and the terrorists.
Arabs are idiots - they know nothing about detective work.
Arabs are opportunists - Prince Thamer
Reaction shots of Arabs praying on the side of the road.
Reaction shots to two Arab males greeting each other with a kiss on each cheek.
Jason Bateman's character - Adam Leavitt - has a Jewish grandmother. He is kidnapped and tortured. Arabs don't like Jews
Jennifer Gardner is a woman. Arabs don't like women.

More stupidity
As with all 80s action flicks where the protagonist was a cop, there had to be a stupid police chief. Instead of the stupid police chief, we get a stupid Attorney General (Danny Huston).
Jennifer Garner has time to give a lollipop to a young Arab girl during a gun battle.
The camera work. 'nuff said.
The only Arab to befriend the Americans dies for the sins of his terrorist countrymen and for all muslims.
The final scene is of a young Arab girl telling her mother that "we are going to kill them all".

That's all I can stomach for now.

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#11 Post by justeleblanc » Tue Sep 25, 2007 8:46 am

I'm not so sure I fully agree with you about the -isms being incorrect, personally I didn't think that was too far off. But you are right about the stupidity. For just another thriller, it was terrific -- especially the third act. But its political statements (correct or incorrect) were overshadowed by it's need to be packaged into something so formulaic for American audiences (I mean, down to the one-liners), which to me is an even stronger, if not unintended, political statement.

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Barmy
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#12 Post by Barmy » Tue Sep 25, 2007 12:09 pm

If the Arabs aren't going to kill us all, can they at least kill Jamie Foxx?

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The Invunche
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#13 Post by The Invunche » Tue Sep 25, 2007 3:02 pm

amnesiac wrote:Arabs don't like Jews
Open a moderate newspaper in a moderate Arab country and you'd be amazed at the level of anti-semitic hate.

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#14 Post by Grand Illusion » Sat Sep 29, 2007 1:05 pm

amnesiac wrote:The -isms
Arabs are sadists - General Al Abdulmalik and the terrorists.
The General does torture during interrogations, but it is stated several times by the Arab police officer that the General does not know how to properly interrogate people. This film no more says all Arabs are sadists than Road to Guantanamo says that all Americans are sadists.
Arabs are opportunists - Prince Thamer
How does this say all Arabs are opportunists? The two police officers, especially one towards the end, are especially giving of themselves to the Americans.

The Prince is a politician. Both American and Arab politicians in this film are protective of themselves and the sensitive political issues being dealt with.
Reaction shots of Arabs praying on the side of the road.
How is this good or bad? Does this happen in reality? What is wrong with documenting it? All it emphasizes for the Americans is how foreign this land and culture are.

The praying isn't manipulated or intercut with anything to make the viewer read the actions as negative. If you read them that way, it's your own doing.
Jason Bateman's character - Adam Leavitt - has a Jewish grandmother. He is kidnapped and tortured. Arabs don't like Jews
First, his grandmother is from Israel. We learn this because he is stopped at the airport because his passport reflected travel to Israel. In case you didn't know, Saudi Arabia doesn't allow people into the country who have traveled to Israel. Now, why do you think this is? What kind of people travel to Israel?

Anti-semitism is institutional in Saudi Arabia. Barbie dolls were banned by the cultural law because they were deemed a "Jew toy." Google it. Many scholarly publications have pointed out the anti-semitism in their educational system.

Why isn't it okay for The Kingdom to criticize this? Also, the kidnapping scene is meant to mirror the kidnapping and beheading of Nicholas Berg and Daniel Pearl, both of whom were Jewish.
Jennifer Gardner is a woman. Arabs don't like women.
If you want to defend the Arab culture's masculine hierarchy, you may do so. Making Jennifer Gardner cover up in the presence of the Prince, however, doesn't seem like an event that the film pulled out of thin air to promote its racist agenda.

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Polybius
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#15 Post by Polybius » Sat Sep 29, 2007 10:39 pm

amnesiac wrote:Instead of the stupid police chief, we get a stupid Attorney General

I believe the catchphrase NBC uses to cover such a contingency is "Ripped from the headlines!"

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a.khan
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#16 Post by a.khan » Sun Sep 30, 2007 7:06 pm

The Invunche wrote:
amnesiac wrote:Arabs don't like Jews
Open a moderate newspaper in a moderate Arab country and you'd be amazed at the level of anti-semitic hate.
Take it from someone who has lived in one such moderate Arab country: The Invunche's statement is true. I am aware of a local community blog that once invited a liberal Israeli to be a regular contributor -- after just two posts, he was booted off the site by readers who saw fit to lynch him for no other reason than the country he belonged to...

I have seen "The Kingdom," and although it far from being intellectually stimulating (A.O Scott correctly identified it as "Syriana for dummies"), the film does capture -- with reasonable measure of authenticity, and without cynicism -- the culture and general mindset of people in Saudi Arabia. However, make no mistake, the movie's main concern is to blow shit up real loud. On the one hand it aspires to be more than genre, yet on the other it slavishly follows convention.

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Antoine Doinel
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#17 Post by Antoine Doinel » Fri Dec 21, 2007 7:52 pm

Peter Berg discusses the film's original ending. Warning, spoilers.

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#18 Post by Tol_Venden » Thu Dec 27, 2007 12:29 pm

This is a strange film to comment on for my first post on the Criterion Forum. I think calling it Syriana for Dummies is generous. One issue that hampered any potential for this to work as a project was the casting. Most Americans would probably disagree, but Jamie Foxx still has a comic disposition that lurks beneath his "serious actor" persona. Beyond that, Jason Bateman seemed like Michael Bluth with an FBI jacket and Jennifer Garner, well, uhhh she just can't act. Richard Jenkins as the FBI director was also a bit tough to digest. I kept seeing his character from Flirting With Disaster and other screwball comedies. Chris Cooper has become one of the great government intelligence agency character actors, but can't we agree that it's become too easy for him? He should take a break.

If you made it past the dubious casting, you were treated to overacting and underwriting. Of course, the movie had all the politics you'd expect of a National Guard recruitment ad, which is fitting since you may have been treated to one before the trailers.

So, call it Die Hard meets high school Gaghan parody.

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#19 Post by jbeall » Mon Jan 21, 2008 3:57 pm

I got this on Netflix over the weekend, and it was okay. By its very form you can tell it's a propaganda piece, but entertaining for all that.

About three minutes into watching this movie, I realized it was a police procedural, which is of course a fairly ideological genre--criminals may mess things up temporarily, but the guys in white hats will show up to restore order and bring the evildoers to justice--and I half expected David Caruso to make a cameo appearance and say something witty punctuated by Roger Daltrey's "yoowwwwwwww!!!!" and the Who's song.

It would seem silly to set a formulaic genre like a procedural in Saudi Arabia, but this film, I would argue, is a consequence of the idiotic attitude we have toward the Middle East, where a hopelessly outmanned and outgunned (just like the inadequate forces we sent to Iraq in the first place... hmmm...) team of well-meaning American cowboys can shoot, blow-up, and otherwise kill the hell out of dozens of those nefarious terrorists, even on their own turf. For this reason, the last twenty minutes, while exhilarating, were pretty unbelievable. No way those FBI agents leave the building in anything other than a body bag, and probably sans heads.

If you take it for what it is, an entertaining and exciting procedural that happens to be set in Saudi Arabia, then there are certain worse ways to spend ~100 minutes. It's no less unrealistic than most domestically-based action movies (Bad Boys, Fast and Furious, etc.). If you're expecting anything close to a realistic portrayal of the complex situation that exists in the Middle East, watch something else; there are some facts thrown in during the moments of expository dialogue, but nothing that would actually show how tricky the dynamic of such a situation would be.

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#20 Post by Grand Illusion » Mon Jan 21, 2008 7:23 pm

See, I always thought Syriana was for dummies. A completely secular Arab prince that gives pow wow talks about women's rights and the virtues of the democratic process? That's a Western fantasy. You show me one in the many Arab nations.

Then there's the idea that the US would fire a scud missile at said prince, their greatest political ally in the region even counting the oil. And the idea that they could do it secretly, so nobody could ever find out what world power fired a US scud in the Middle East. And the idea that the rocket would hit with pinpoint accuracy.

I found The Kingdom to be more believable. The US was muddled in procedure and every "good" thing that was done was likely to begin a new cycle again.
Last edited by Grand Illusion on Mon Jan 21, 2008 7:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#21 Post by margot » Mon Jan 21, 2008 7:41 pm

Grand Illusion wrote:See, I always through Syriana was for dummies. A completely secular Arab prince that gives pow wow talks about women's rights and the virtues of the democratic process? That's a Western fantasy. You show me one in the many Arab nations.

Then there's the idea that the US would fire a scud missile at said prince, their greatest political ally in the region even counting the oil. And the idea that they could do it secretly, so nobody could ever find out what world power fired a US scud in the Middle East. And the idea that the rocket would hit with pinpoint accuracy.

I found The Kingdom to be more believable. The US was muddled in procedure and every "good" thing that was done was likely to begin a new cycle again.
You're nitpicking

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