Running Time: 109 mins
Rated: Rated MA 15+ (strong violence and themes)
The pre-credits sequence is very interesting in itself. It traces the 20th century history of Saudi Arabia (The Kingdom), especially in terms of its relationship with the US and its oil power. Then there is an expertly staged, if quite ghastly, attack on the American compound in Ryadh, first shooters, then a tremendous explosion. Many are killed.
Move then to the US with experts on Capitol Hill debating the response: the hawks eager to take action, the doves reminding hawks about diplomacy and national sensibilities. However, a team of FBI investigators is able to arrange an entry, though they are hampered by protocols and permissions at first, finally persuading one of the many princes to support their search for evidence and gain some police collaboration. They bring some American know-how but also a great deal of American superiority attitude which means they need a little sensitivity and inculturation.
So far, so good - with Arizona and Abu Dabi locations standing in for the Kingdom. The investigation is interesting. But, when they find the suspects, as they say, all hell breaks loose. It seems the film implodes in its shift from intelligent drama to an all-out action show, lots of chases, explosions, shooting, the abduction of one of the team, the breakthrough in discovering the perpetrators and general confusion and mayhem.
The makers have opted for action for the multiplex rather than stay with the politics, diplomacy and intrigue of a film like Syriana.
Much is made of Jamie Foxx's character as a loving father and children are a motif throughout the film, including offering the key evidence for the climax. Other team members are the tough older hands-on-and- get-dirty expert, Chris Cooper, wisecracking Jason Bateman and, for glamour, Jennifer Garner. Ashraf Barhom (an Israeli actor) is particularly sympathetic as the Saudi police liaison.
The final lines of the film bring us back to the harsh realities of extremists, whether they be terrorists or US officials.
Universal Out Now
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.