The Kingdom (Widescreen) product details page

The Kingdom (Widescreen)

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The Kingdom may just be the first action movie set against the modern war on Islamic terrorism. Unfortunately, it seems pretty clear that director Peter Berg set out to make an ensemble sociopolitical thriller in the style of Syriana. His movie does start out on that track. Not only does the first act acquaint us with numerous players in various arenas, both foreign and domestic, but unlike Syriana, Berg's film deigns to help the audience sort out who's who, supplying handy title cards as characters get introduced. What's strange is that he doesn't actually need them, because most of these characters immediately drop out of the plot. The Kingdom soon abandons its Washington political wranglings and focuses exclusively on the four agents on the ground in Saudi Arabia. At first the focus on this small group sustains the picture. The investigation, such as it is, gets bogged down by the stark difference in forensic procedures (or lack thereof), the friction over whether the oppressive regime will let them do their jobs, and the treatment of Jennifer Garner's character in a society where women can't show their faces in public. (Adding to the tension, the Americans constantly complain and drop f-bombs). The Kingdom mostly retains its sense of realism in these sections, a prized attribute indeed for films dealing with the Middle East. It's all the more problematic, then, that the last 30 minutes get sucked up by an improbable and protracted shootout. These video game aesthetics -- where every character has as many bullets and/or combat skills as he or she needs -- have no place in the movie Berg was originally trying to create. They leave The Kingdom feeling like it "cut and run" on its instincts toward complexity, and opted for the easier route of explosions and simplistic resolutions. Derek Armstrong, All Movie Guide