‘Kingdom’ is magnificent

Ellis Wells

Saudi Arabia, known to many as the Kingdom, is also known for being America’s No. 1 supplier of oil.

The Saudi Arabian royal family supports America, but a vast majority of the country’s population does not. Igniting this conflict is a baseball match inside a Western housing compound in the city of Riyadh.

In broad daylight, this estate is attacked by two armed men, disguised as soldiers. While uniformed police on the base rush to take down the impostors, a third man walks into the middle of the chaos, with explosives on his chest. The following detonation kills dozens of innocent men, women and children.

In the United States, a team of elite FBI agents, lead by Special Agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx), is dragged into the case due to the death of one of their own officers in the blast.

Fighting against political and diplomatic constraints, the elite team (Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman and Chris Cooper) gains a five-day window to enter the country of Saudi Arabia with the intent on finding the terrorists. Allied with them in their quest is Saudi Colonel Al-Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom), who also seeks justice for this crime. His orders are simple: Keep the four FBI agents alive.

The stretched peace between the countries is cracking and the terrorists have been made aware of the agents’ presence. The hunters become the hunted.

This movie is brilliant. From the imaginative and jaw-dropping opening credits, it never lets you go. The story is so interesting, purely because it houses so many different points of view and opinions, yet never once forces you to side with one.

Contrary to what some may believe, this is not a political movie, despite the of politics and social commentary. If you erase the politically charged aspect, this is a classic cat-and-mouse revenge thriller between the agents and terrorists.

Yet, layered through it all is a vast amount of comedy. The banter between the agents and their dialogue with Col. Al-Ghazi contains comedy and some situational slapstick, all of which is necessary to lighten the mood of a very serious, stomach-churning movie. I believe some of the best dramas are ones that incorporate comedy, and this is truer in this movie than ever before. We need to laugh, because otherwise our heart would simply stop, overwhelmed by the tension and action.

It’s the acting that dominates and defines this film. Foxx is perfect as the adamant and steadfast leader. His relationship with Barhom is particularly moving and, as the two begin to understand one another’s cultures, you too invest real emotion into these characters.

And there’s Chris Cooper, who dominates the comedy aspect with a perfect blend of wisecracker and wise man. What truly is surprising is that most of the directing is done by the relatively unknown Peter Berg. Other than his production work on the movie and TV series “Friday Night Lights,” this man has done more acting than directing. Where did he find such wisdom to imbue this movie with such feeling? Hats off to him for this masterpiece of cinema work.

While I generally find some constructive negativity about most films, to be honest, I couldn’t any this time. I cannot express to you how much this film moved me in its terror and even how it made me cry. Much like last year’s “Little Miss Sunshine,” and the year prior’s “Crash,” this was the movie people didn’t see coming. But come time of the awards, it should make its mark.

Best scene: As the confrontation between the terrorists and the FBI agents arrives in the enclosed streets of Saudi Arabia, they race against time to save one of their own, who has been kidnapped by the very man they are pursuing. For 10 minutes, my heart stopped. Everything rides on that moment and failure is not an option.

Overall: This is a magnificent film and the best movie I have seen since “Children of Men.” Every aspects challenges what you know, and forces you to confront your own prejudice for the situation. A thoroughly thought provoking, powerful, beautiful story with first-rate actors and a surprisingly moving score from Danny Elfman, “The Kingdom” does not hold back when hell breaks lose.

Fact: If you do not see it, you are missing out.