The Kingdom is a fairly slick thriller with high minded aspirations to provide some real commentary on the issues rising out of the Middle East. Too bad it only aspires to Lethal Weapon-like buddy comedy and some simple minded analysis of Western/Islamic relations.
An FBI team begins investigating a terrorist attack on an American compound in Saudi Arabia. The film goes to great lengths to show you that those who kill, especially children, in the name of their God are monsters. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but the film only targets Muslims. There is nothing to say that followers of other faiths have acted like that throughout human history. According to The Kingdom this is a uniquely Islamic problem. The film is consciously obsessed with the Islamic militant mind. There isn't a scene that goes by without someone praying to Mecca.
The film also makes no attempt to comment on western imperialism. Is there anything remotely militant about manifest destiny? No comment here. The film opens with a very slick and impressive history summation, for it's ignorant audience I guess, that points the finger very firmly at the Saudi monarchy. Not that I am a fan of them but something tells me it is all a bit more complicated than The Kingdom needs it to be.
The film attempts to humanize its Muslim protagonist but it does so in a clumsy manner which mostly consists of him talking about baseball and American TV. Is this really the only way American audiences can relate to a character?
Anyway, that's probably all too much to ask of this little action film. It really does want to be Lethal Weapon. Jamie Foxx and Ashraf Barhom are the odd couple trading barbs as they catch the crooks. Sure it tries to get more serious than that a few times with Jennifer Garner adding the necessary pathos but mostly it's a buddy cop movie.
While not bad or even that offensive, The Kingdom just feels simple and not very inspiring. Director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) uses the shaky cam a lot. This is cheap film maker short hand for "gritty and real." Real film makers get their audience to feel it instead of forcing it at us like that.