In an interview I recently watched with Peter Berg, he said that the last thirty minutes of The Kingdom should be as if he's stepping on the throat of the audience. Well, consider my throat officially squashed.
I think Chris Vognar from the Dallas Morning News said it best: "The Kingdom has its cake, eats it, then blows it up with an RPG."
The opening credits, filled with the history of oil and Middle East/US relations, fools you into believing this is an anti-war movie. Watching a suicide bomber blow up a softball game filled with families almost solidifies the idea. But then, Jamie Foxx, with his mental guns blazing, comes out ready to fight and find those bad guys. He has no problem hunting them down, killing them, and then going home to hug his son. It turns out this is no anti-war or pro-war movie. It's a movie about war. It's a movie about the ugliness, the passion, and the copious amounts of bloodshed that war brings.
Oh, and it's an action movie. It is first and foremost an action movie...even though you don't really get to the action part until the last half hour or so. But that's okay, when that half hour came, I had a little trouble breathing. If the whole movie had been that visceral, I may have passed out.
Even though the story as a whole worked for me, I did have some issues with certain story elements. It was quite obvious that conflict was being forced. If you were the head of an "elite FBI task force" going to the Middle East, would you really bring a brass-balls type of woman and a Jewish wise ass with you on your journey? No. I didn't think so. But ask me if I enjoyed Jennifer Garner shooting the bad guys? Yes, yes I did. And vindictively, I couldn't help but think the last thought going through these terrorists' minds was, "I can't believe it. I just got killed by a woman."
A lot of critics have been tearing into The Kingdom because they claim it doesn't know what kind of movie it is. Is it an action movie? Is it a war movie? Is it a message movie? Well, it's definitely not a message movie. But it is an action war movie. Exactly how can you have a war movie without any action? Hell, even Casualties of War has action in it.
Anyway, I think Peter Berg was quite aware of what kind of movie he was making. The breakneck editing, the shaky hand held camera work--it all prepares the audience for that throat-crushing last thirty minutes. It may not be his best film (that honor goes to Friday Night Lights in my humble opinion), but it is an entertaining bit of cinema.