Film Review – The Kingdom (2007)

28 08 2008

Since ‘The Kingdom’ was released at the cinema, I’ve wanted to see it, but thanks to reasons unknown I didn’t get the chance to during its original release. So came the waiting for it to be released on DVD, that time came around and I still didn’t get around to getting a copy and seeing it. Finally I managed to get the film through my door and still I didn’t watch it. What is up with me? So tonight I eventually put it on and sat and watched… and I am glad I did.

I feared that I may have built up the film more than it deserved in my head. As the reviews I heard for the film on its initial release sat there cultivating in my mind, generating hype that only I was privy to. Almost as as if the film had still been in production and tonight was its release date. Thankfully the film held up to my own hype machine and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.

Beginning with a brief history of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the film sets up the relationship between Saudi monarchy and the USA with the oil trade. With this initial introduction over with we see a small community of American oil workers and their families in Saudi Arabia, attending a softball game. At which they are attacked by a terrorist group.

Four FBI agents manage to gain access to the crime scene in order to investigate the attack and bring those responsible to justice, along with the assistance of Colonel Al Ghazi.

The film’s opening, with the history of the country, though not entirely needed, acted as a useful source of information for viewers who may not be entirely aware of the situation in the Middle-East and effectively sets up the location for the story. A combination of well composed graphics and stock imagery of key figures in the nation’s history, including Osama Bin Laden and the attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001, effectively condense 75 years of history into a short, concise establishing montage.

As the film progresses, all the benefits of a great cast and good writing are apparent, with Jamie Foxx being as charismatic and fantastic as usual. Throughout, the whole cast don’t seem to put a foot wrong, with Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman all performing without fault. For me however, the stand out performance in this came from Ashraf Barhom who plays ‘Colonel Faris Al Ghazi’. Barhom has shown himself to be a great talent and performed alongside Foxx spectacularly well.

The cinematography in this film was well executed, however will not be to everyone’s taste. Too often I hear people complaining about ‘Shakey Cam’ and how it puts them off, making them feel sick or disjointed from the film. I personally have no problems with the choice to handhold the camera for shots in films such as this, for me it is an added layer of realism to a film, as long as it is done well.

It seems as though many people believe that handheld camera is a new phenomenon and should be banished from film-making, even though it is a convention that has existed for many years through British documentary and social realist films, I don’t believe people heckled back then ‘get a tripod!’. Yet now when the ever brilliant Paul Greengrass choses to use the technique in the Bourne series people are up in arms. Get over it, if every shot was clean and nice and on a tripod while a gunfight is going on, people would probably complain that the shot had no movement. Anyway, I didn’t mean to go on a rant, but there you have it.

I whole heartedly recommend this film to anyone who might have an interest in it, and I will be looking out for more from the director, writer, and especially from Ashraf Barhom who I hope will get more western mainstream roles.

Cheers

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