Kingdom’ packs a political punch
A political agenda is usually the fine line in Hollywood that separates a "movie" from a "film." Political satires, such as Wag the Dog or Man of the Year, work as movies: entertainment for education’s sake. A political agenda, however, is the dark and cynical land from whence pieces such as Syriana and Born on the Fourth of July are spawned.
Once in a generation, you find a balance between the two, but they are rare and often take years to appreciate, just ask Orson Welles.
The political agenda, other than perhaps a worldwide beloved superhero, is the most dangerous thing to work with when making a film. Too far right- or left-winged and you alienate yourself as well as your potential audience. Too middle-grounded and you’re nothing more than a crowd pleaser with an essentially pointless film.
But then, a movie like The Kingdom comes along. Perhaps the timeliest movie released this year, it still never aspires to be a political agenda-driven film.
The Kingdom starts off with a bang (literally) as an American housing compound in Saudi Arabia is bombed.
The FBI sends in an elite team of investigators who have bargained their way into a five-day trip into the country to find the killer.
The movie could have easily turned into a piece of political propaganda, turning the U.S. against Saudi Arabia for a two-hour expose on why Americans are good and Saudis are bad. The Kingdom never takes that path.
Instead, it’s a simple matter of good guys versus bad guys. Heroes versus villains. Good versus evil.
The movie even takes a leap by allowing one of the story’s most admirable heroes to be a Saudi colonel.
That doesn’t mean the movie is without any cerebral levels. It is still very much a thinking man’s action movie, balancing a smart, provocative and often engrossing story line with an eye for nail-biting excitement that proves a movie with a message doesn’t need to be trite in order to be engaging.
The movie acts as a relief when we can breathe from the lack of message being shoved down our throats, as it entertains without being exploitive.
What makes the action work is that the provocative and smart aspects don’t take a backseat to the whip-lashing excitement.
While the film never fails to keep your attention, the extended finale dares you to look away. The climactic showdown is as tense and thrilling as any summer blockbuster released this year, if not more so.
The all-star cast delivers what they were paid to do.
The Kingdom is not afraid to be an entertaining movie – one of the better ones of the year, at that. It works when it tries, but never tries to be more than it is. It reminds us that sometimes a movie is just a movie. Leave the politics up to the good guys and the bad guys.
They’ll figure it out on their own.