We’ve been talking a lot about the onset of the fall movie season. Gone are the hot days of summer and with them the never-ending sequels, gross-out Judd Apatow comedies and big-budget action films. And as the weather gets cooler, suddenly some of the movies get smarter.
The Kingdom tries to parade itself as a fall movie. It wants to be clever and politically relevant, but in the end it’s just a summer movie in sheep’s clothing. And though that’s not necessarily a bad thing, in this case, it’s not especially good either. The movie begins with a brief, written, tutorial of the Saudi Arabia oil empire and the resulting partnerships and conflicts with the United States of America. It’s an informative and authentic intro, but that’s where the authenticity ends. From there, the movie falls into a “blame the terrorist” cliché that has affected other big Hollywood movies like Flightplan. For more about The Kingdom, read more
The story centers on an investigation into the bombing of a Western housing complex in Saudi Arabia. Hoping to avoid an international incident, a team of FBI agents is sent abroad to get the bad guy, who is emulated after Osama Bin Laden. Jamie Foxx leads the team of agents comprised of Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper and Jason Bateman. Foxx delivers an adequate performance, but the supporting cast far outpaces him. Besides the fact that Jennifer Garner looks obnoxiously flawless in the desert (but really when doesn’t she?), it's great to see her back in action. Jason Bateman is also a pleasant surprise, offering much needed comic relief. It’ll be great to see these two together again this winter in Juno.
But the true knockout performance belongs to Chris Cooper. He is such a chameleon, always able to convincingly adapt to every role. Conversely, Jeremy Piven’s cameo as an American Diplomat in Saudi Arabia seems rather forced. It’s as if his “Entourage” character, Ari Gold, is roaming around in the desert. And while that may win him an Emmy, I’m placing my bet that it won’t win him an Oscar.
In the end, the movie’s not all bad. It’s no Syriana, but it’s an enjoyable popcorn flick nevertheless. The movie’s final 20 minutes is especially riveting and pulls you in even if you’re sitting begrudgingly at the back of your seat. If you’re looking for a movie that will allow you to hold on to the dog days of summer, this is it.