- The Kingdom (film)
Directed by Peter Berg Produced by Michael Mann
Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan Starring Jamie Foxx
Music by Danny Elfman Cinematography Mauro Fiore Editing by Colby Parker Jr.
Studio Relativity Media Distributed by Universal Pictures Release date(s) August 22, 2007(EIFF)
September 28, 2007
October 11, 2007 (Germany)
Running time 109 minutes Country United States
Budget $70 million Box office $86,579,130
The film is fictional, but inspired by bombings at the Riyadh compound on May 12, 2003 and the Khobar housing complex on June 26, 1996, in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The story follows a team of FBI agents who investigate the bombing of a foreign-workers facility in Saudi Arabia. Screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan has summarised the plot as "What would a murder investigation look like on Mars?”
The opening title credits of "The Kingdom", which is normally a formality quickly dispensed with in most big budget Hollywood films, has been lauded as among the most innovative in recent fictional Hollywood productions. The film, which takes place in Saudi Arabia, needed to quickly educate the audience on the recent history of "The Kingdom." (Saudi Arabia's official name is ´The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia´.) By employing a melange of historical footage, audio clips, alongside slick animations and CGI, the opening credits set the stage for the ensuing story. The sequence has been lauded as revolutionary, and has directly influenced the opening title credits of several recent films that rely on a basic historical understanding for the viewer to comprehend the ensuing plot. Although "The Kingdom" was fictional, one clear imitation is the opening sequence of Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace, a 2009/2010 documentary featuring Jimmy Carter and his efforts to forge a lasting peace between Israel and Egypt. One of the film's executive producers, Arick Wierson, has credited "The Kingdom" and director Peter Berg as the direct inspiration for the opening sequence in the documentary.
The opening scene of the movie explains the origins of U.S.-Saudi diplomatic relations and how energy exploitation has transformed the Middle East through a timeline sequence. It portrays the conflicts that have risen since the late 1940s for the rightful ownership of the oil industry. This includes the Persian Gulf War in Iraq and al-Qaeda's growing network of terrorism. Eventually, it explains the 9/11 terrorist attacks and how the majority of the hijackers were Saudis. This raises serious questions on the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States. The plot begins with the current struggle of Saudi Arabia and the kingdom's efforts to stand control of their country against terrorist extremists.
During a softball game at an American oil company housing compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, al-Qaeda terrorists set off a bomb, killing many Americans and Saudis in the process. The terrorists impersonate members of the Saudi State Police. While one team hijacks a car and shoots at the residents of the area, another runs out onto the softball diamond, pretending to aid the Americans, but then reveals that he is a suicide bomber and blows himself up, killing everyone near him. Sergeant Haytham (Ali Suliman) of the Saudi state police, disables the stolen Saudi Police vehicle and kills the terrorists. A short time later, the FBI Legal Attaché in Saudi Arabia, Special Agent Francis Manner (Kyle Chandler), calls up his colleague Special Agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) to tell him about the attack. Shortly afterwards, a second bomb explodes in the compound killing Manner and more people.
At FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Fleury briefs his rapid deployment team on the attack and casualties. During the briefing, Special Agent Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner), a forensic examiner, breaks down in tears upon hearing of Francis' death. Fleury whispers something into her ear which causes her to control her emotions. While the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. State Department hinder FBI efforts to investigate the attack, Fleury blackmails the Saudi ambassador into allowing an FBI investigative team into Saudi Arabia. Departing from Andrews Air Force Base, Fleury and his team of Mayes, Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman), an intelligence analyst, and Special Agent Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper), a bomb technician, go to Saudi Arabia. Arriving at Prince Sultan Air Base, they are met by Colonel Faris al-Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom), the commander of the Saudi State Police Force providing security at the compound. Fleury soon realizes that Colonel al-Ghazi is not in charge of running the investigation. In actuality, the investigation is being run by General Al Abdulmalik (Mahmoud Said) of the Saudi National Guard, who does not give Fleury and his team permission to investigate. Rather, they are to observe the Saudi investigation.
When the FBI team is invited to the palace of Saudi Prince Ahmed bin Khaled (Omar Berdouni) for a dinner, Mayes is excluded because of her gender. While at the palace, Fleury persuades the Prince that Colonel al-Ghazi is a natural detective and should be allowed to lead the investigation. With this new change in leadership, the Americans are allowed a more hands-on approach to the crime scene. While searching for evidence, Sergeant Haytham and Sykes discover that the second bomb was detonated in an ambulance, using marbles as projectiles. Fleury learns that the brother of one of the dead terrorists had access to ambulances and police uniforms. Colonel al-Ghazi orders a SWAT team to raid the house, managing to kill a few heavily armed terrorists. Following the raid, the team discovers valuable intelligence, including multiple photos of the U.S. and other Western embassies in Riyadh. Soon afterwards, Fleury and his team are notified by the U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Damon Schmidt (Jeremy Piven) that they have been ordered to return to the United States. However, Fleury and al-Ghazi both believed that the men that they had just killed were just amateur fighters and were not the real planners behind the attacks.
On their way to King Khalid International Airport, Fleury notices a youth watching their convoy from an overpass, and then sees that the last SUV of their convoy has slowed down falling far behind. He then notices a speeding car coming towards them and grabs the wheel from Sergeant Haytham, which allows them to partially evade the collision that occurs when the speeding car runs into the first SUV of their convoy, setting off a trunk full of explosives. Their SUV, the third one in their convoy, hits the first SUV, killing the men inside. The fourth SUV finally drives up and the men inside pull out Leavitt, throw him into the back and drive away while a second car drives by to shoot the surviving Americans. Fleury manages to wound one attacker, and al-Ghazi commandeers a civilian vehicle to chase the fourth SUV and the other car into the dangerous Suweidi neighborhood of Riyadh. As they pull up, a gunman launches rocket-propelled grenades at them and a fierce firefight starts. Inside the complex, Leavitt is tied up and gagged while his attackers prepare to film a tape of them executing him.
After having killed their attackers, al-Ghazi decides that three of them must enter and find Leavitt and two must stay behind and cover the entrance. While Sykes and Haytham watch the entrance, al-Ghazi, Fleury and Mayes enter the building, following a blood trail and manage to finish off many other gunmen inside. Mayes, separate from the other two, scares a little girl in an apartment, and she enters to find a family with little children, their mother and grandfather. She yells at them to stay put and goes across the hall to another apartment to find Leavitt and his attackers. She kills the remaining insurgents, and al-Ghazi and the team start to leave. However, Mayes feels unsettled about the little girl, and walks in to give the girl a lollipop. In return, the girl gives her a marble, matching the ones pieced together earlier from the bomb scene. Fleury then realises that there is a trail of blood leading to the back of the apartment, and al-Ghazi sees the grandfather, suspects something and asks to help him up in order to inspect his hand. When the old man gives him his hand, al-Ghazi sees that the man is missing the fingers that are missing in the terrorist group's many videos and confirms his idea that the grandfather is the terrorist leader. Abu Hamza's teenage grandson walks out of the bedroom and manages to shoot al-Ghazi in the neck twice with a pistol before it jams, then he begins to point his gun at Mayes, prompting Fleury to kill him. Abu Hamza then feebly pulls out an assault rifle and Haytham puts three shots in his chest. As Abu Hamza dies, another grandson hugs him and Abu Hamza whispers something into his ear to calm the child down. Al-Ghazi dies in Fleury's arms.
At Al-Ghazi's house, Fleury and Haytham meet his family. Fleury tells his son that al-Ghazi was his good friend, mirroring a similar scene earlier in the movie where he comforted Special Agent Manner's son. Fleury and his team return to the U.S., where they are commended by FBI Director James Grace (Richard Jenkins) for their outstanding work. Afterwards, Leavitt asks Fleury what he had whispered to Mayes (earlier in the film) to calm her down. The scene cuts to Abu Hamza's daughter asking her own son what his grandfather whispered to him as he was dying. Fleury recalls saying, "We're gonna kill them all," while the grandson tells her mother, "Don't fear them, my child. We are going to kill them all.", implying a never-ending, vicious cycle resulted from the war.
- Jamie Foxx as Special Agent Ronald Fleury, Team Leader
- Chris Cooper as Special Agent Grant Sykes, Bomb Technician
- Jennifer Garner as Special Agent Janet Mayes, Forensic Examiner
- Jason Bateman as Special Agent Adam Leavitt, Intelligence Analyst
- Ashraf Barhom as Colonel Faris Al-Ghazi, Saudi State Police
- Ali Suliman as Sergeant Haytham, Saudi State Police
- Jeremy Piven as Damon Schmidt, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy
- Richard Jenkins as Robert Grace, FBI Director
- Tim McGraw as Aaron Jackson
- Kyle Chandler as Special Agent Francis Manner, Legal Attaché
- Frances Fisher as Elaine Flowers, Investigative Reporter, Washington Post
- Danny Huston as Gideon Young, US Attorney General
- Kelly AuCoin as Ellis Leach
- Anna Deavere Smith as Maricella Canavesio, Deputy National Security Advisor
- Minka Kelly as Miss Ross
- Amy Hunter as Lyla Fleury
- T.J. Burnett as Kevin Fleury
- Omar Berdouni as Prince Ahmed bin Khaled
- Raad Rawi as Prince Thamer, Ambassador of Saudi Arabia
- Mahmoud Said as Brigadier General Al Abdulmalik, Saudi Arabian National Guard
- Trevor St. John as Earl Ripon
- Ashley Scott as Janine Ripon
Prior to filming, director Peter Berg spent two weeks in Saudi Arabia doing research for the film. Filming commenced July 10, 2006, on the west side of the old Maricopa County Courthouse in Phoenix, Arizona. Additional scenes were being filmed concurrently in Mesa, Arizona; the scenes at the American compound were shot at the Polytechnic campus of Arizona State University. In some of the trailer frames, saguaro cacti not native to Saudi Arabia are visible in the background. The scenes in the men's locker room at the beginning of the film were filmed in the men's locker room and detention area of the Gilbert Police Department. The FBI briefing scene was filmed in the media amphitheater/classroom in the same police building. The high speed driving scenes were filmed on Highway 202 which runs through Mesa and Gilbert, just prior to its opening for public use only a few miles from the ASU campus.
While shooting on location in Mesa, Berg was involved in a fatal accident that resulted in the death of another member of the production team. The SUV he was riding in collided with a Gator all-terrain vehicle driven by Nick Papac. Papac died three hours later. On August 8, 2008, Papac's parents Michael Papac and Michele Bell filed a lawsuit against the director, a driver and the production company. The lawsuit was dropped in 2008. Filming resumed one day after the incident.
On-location filming took place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates for two weeks in mid-September. Since Universal Pictures does not have an office in the Middle East, the production was facilitated by a local production firm called Filmworks, based in Dubai. Filming also took place at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi.
The film's production cost $80 million. The Kingdom was released on DVD December 20, 2007.
The film received moderate reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 51% of 180 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.8 out of 10. Among Rotten Tomatoes' "Top Critics", which consists of popular and notable critics from the top newspapers, websites, television and radio programs, the film holds an overall approval rating of 45%, based on a sample of 40 reviews. The site's general consensus is that "While providing several top-notch action scenes, The Kingdom ultimately collapses under the weight of formula and muddled politics." Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 0—100 reviews from film critics, has a rating score of 56 based on 37 reviews. Weekly Standard columnist John Podhoretz called the film "perfectly paced" and "remarkably crisp and satisfying", arguing that it evokes the films The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Dog Day Afternoon, and The New Centurions. New York Times critic A.O. Scott called it "a slick, brutishly effective genre movie". He also stated that "Just as Rambo offered the fantasy of do-over on Vietnam, The Kingdom can be seen as a wishful revisionist scenario for the American response to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism." Evan Williams of The Australian called it "an excellent thriller" and stated that it "may be the first Hollywood film to confront Saudi involvement in international terrorism."
New York Post critic Lou Lumenick stated that "Hollywood provides the Islamic world another reason to hate America with The Kingdom," calling it "xenophobic" and "pandering." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly accused the film of "treating its audience like cash-dispensing machines". Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times called it "a slick excuse for efficient mayhem that's not half as smart as it would like to be." He added that "the film's thematic similarity to those jingoistic World War II-era 'Yellow Peril' films makes it hard not to feel your humanity being diminished."
Middle Eastern reception
Kaveh L Afrasiabi of Asia Times Online called it "a pseudo-realist action movie that succeeds only if we degrade ourselves to adolescent Americans' perception of world affairs" and "non-stop nonsense from beginning to end." He accused the film of "FBI-worship", "Saudi-bashing", and "Islamophobia". Faisal Abbas, media editor of the London-based international Arabic journal Asharq Al Awsat, wrote on the newspaper's English website that "despite some aspects which might be perceived by some as negative, many might be pleasantly surprised after watching this film, bearing in mind that Arabs have for a long time been among Hollywood's favorite villains." Faisal concluded that "In all cases, the film is definitely action-packed, and perhaps Saudis and Arabs may enjoy it more than Americans, as events are depicted as taking place in the Saudi capital…and it is not every day that you watch a Hollywood-style car chase happening on the streets of Riyadh. For Westerners, the movie might be an interesting “insight” to a culture that is very different to their own."
Box office performance
The film grossed $17.1 million in 2,733 theaters in the United States and Canada on its opening weekend, ranking #2 at the box office. It also grossed £919,537 in the United Kingdom, about $1.9 million. As of December 15, 2007, the film has grossed an estimated $47,536,778 in the United States and $39,042,352 at the foreign box office with a worldwide gross of $86,579,130.
The film has been extremely successful in the rental market, grossing $77.4 million in the United States as of April 13, 2008.
The movie had been banned in several Arabic countries for claims of being biased against Saudi treatment with terrorism.
- ^ Review, from The New York Times, June 19, 2007
- ^ "Edinburgh Film Festival Gets a Surprise Trip to 'The Kingdom'". Cinematical. August 26, 2007. http://www.cinematical.com/2007/08/26/edinburgh-film-festival-gets-a-surprise-trip-to-the-kingdom/.
- ^ Abu Hamza al-Masri (Arabic: أبو حمزة المصري, Abū Ḥamzah al-Maṣrī) born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa
- ^ a b The Kingdom's Peter Berg
- ^ "ASU Campus makes big screen debut in 'Kingdom'". ASU State Press. 1 October 2007. http://www.asuwebdevil.com/issues/2007/10/01/news/702018. [dead link]
- ^ "'Hancock' director sued over death". CNN. 2008-08-08. http://www.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/Movies/08/08/movie.crash.ap/index.html?iref=mpstoryview. Retrieved 2008-09-14. [dead link]
- ^ "Lawsuit dropped against director Berg". ContactMusic. 2008-12-08. http://www.contactmusic.com/news.nsf/article/lawsuit%20dropped%20against%20director%20berg_109018. Retrieved 2009-07-30. [dead link]
- ^ Jaafar, Ali (December 3, 2006). "Dubai surfaces as regional film hub". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117954915.html?categoryid=2379&cs=1.
- ^ Nos. 51 and 52: Peter Berg, Director of 'The Kingdom' – Esquire
- ^ Gorov, Lynda (September 23, 2007). "Feeling the heat". The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/ae/movies/articles/2007/09/23/feeling_the_heat/.
- ^ a b The Kingdom (2007) – Box office / business
- ^ "The Kingdom (2007)". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_kingdom/. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
- ^ "The Kingdom (Top Critics)". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_kingdom/?critic=creamcrop. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
- ^ "The Kingdom: Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks. http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/kingdom. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
- ^ One for the Good Guys The Weekly Standard
- ^ Scott, A. O. (September 28, 2007). "F.B.I. Agents Solve the Terrorist Problem". The New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/2007/09/28/movies/28king.html. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
- ^ Williams, Evan (October 6, 2007). "Into an Arabian gulf". The Australian. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22518429-15803,00.html.
- ^ Lumenick, Lou (September 28, 2007). "The King-Dumb". New York Post. http://www.nypost.com/seven/09282007/entertainment/movies/the_king_dumb.htm.
- ^ The Kingdom | Movie Review|Entertainment Weekly
- ^ Asia Times Online :: Middle East News – A failed kingdom
- ^ Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English)
- ^ "The Kingdom (2007) – Weekend Box Office". Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=weekend&id=kingdom.htm. Retrieved 2007-10-24.
- ^ As of October 21, 2007 using Yahoo!Finance
- ^ "The Kingdom (2007) – International Box Office". Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=intl&id=kingdom.htm. Retrieved 2007-10-21.
- ^ "Weekly DVD/Home Video Rentals, April 7–13, 2008". Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/dvdrentals/chart/?wk=2008-04-13&p=.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- Official website
- The Kingdom at the Internet Movie Database
- The Kingdom at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Kingdom at Metacritic
- The Kingdom at Box Office Mojo
- The Kingdom at AllRovi
- The Kingdom exclusive movie trailer – Times Online
- Article about the banning of "The Kingdom" from Babylon & Beyond, the Los Angeles Times' Middle East blog
Films directed by Peter Berg
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