Making the Grades
The Kingdom opens with an iconic setting that could be found in any affluent US city. Families are gathered around a baseball diamond with fathers and kids playing together, while mothers holding babies look on. Yet as idyllic as it appears, this is no suburb, but instead is a highly guarded US residence in Saudi Arabia where American oil workers and their families live. One moment later, the serene scene becomes akin to the worst nightmare imaginable.
A terrorist organization has blasted past the barricades and now bombs and shells are flying in every direction. By the time the horrific attack is over, dozens of people -- including women and children -- have been killed or injured.
The Saudi's respond quickly, putting Col Faris Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom) in charge of the case, but back in Washington DC, three FBI agents -- Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx), Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper) and Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner) -- are convinced they should be leading the criminal investigation searching for the instigator. The State Department isn't so sure, and is feeling pressure from the Saudi royal family to leave the inquiry in their hands. Of course, this is American bravado at its best, and nothing the government says will keep our heroes from heading to the scene of the crime and ensuring the foreign police look like Keystone Cops.
If you consider The Kingdom purely on an entertainment basis, it certainly delivers in bullets and bombs. Edge-of-your-seat tension rules the screen from start to finish -- it's even difficult to catch your breath during the "quiet" moments" for fear the next assault is about to begin. Of course that non-stop action equals non-stop violence, and there is plenty of blood in this US R-rated movie. Countless people are shot, blown up, and beaten -- in both the names of justice and terrorism. The elite US team is also fond of sexual expletives, and repeatedly use profanity despite Col Al Ghazi's frequent objections.
These content concerns alone will likely be reason enough to nix this choice for many families, yet far greater questions loom surrounding the decision to weave real images of the 9/11 disaster into this purely fictional tale of chaos, anger and violence. Are we ready to turn the emotions of that fateful day into recreational entertainment with heroic Americans shooting and destroying both innocent bystanders and suspected participants as they focus on their sole purpose of finding a smoking gun? Attempting to be topical and thrilling, The Kingdom stumbles over the fine line separating patriotism from prejudice.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Kingdom.
How do you feel about creating fictitious action entertainment based on the terrorist attacks of 2001? Why do you think the creators of this film chose to open the movie with pictures from the actual event? How do you feel about the decision to use these images?
The Saudi citizen assigned to host the US investigators often asks them to curtail their use of profanity. By ignoring his request, what additional insight do we glean about the traits of the characters? Is this an accurate representation of all Americans? Why do you think the screenwriter made these choices?