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The Kingdom

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The Kingdom begins with a somewhat thrilling opening credit sequence in which names, dates and events leap across the screen, giving us a history lesson on the United States' involvement with Saudi Arabia, from oil to September 11—its final statement is that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. A movie that portrays the ironies of the US's relationship with Saudi Arabia should start here, but a whodunit about a subsequent bomb explosion begins instead.

This movie can't decide if it wants to be an action film or a think-piece. There is a bomb attack on a residential compound housing American oil families in Saudi Arabia. It is obviously a vicious attack on American people and interests, and in the process, kills an FBI agent. Star Jamie Foxx and his crack forensics team that includes Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman assign themselves to the investigation, contrive to make the State department let them go over (because if they didn't there wouldn't be a movie), then become miffed when the Saudis take offence to their foul mouths and their attempts to tell the police already on the case how to do their jobs.

This would be a great time to get the cross-cultural procedural going—you know, getting over your differences and bonding over some old-fashioned policin'? The story doesn't have twists and turns so much changes of venue: State department foot-dragging becomes Saudi police resistance becomes crime-scene sifting becomes a huge shoot-out. A mystery about a terrorist network in a middle-eastern country is a loaded proposition. The Kingdom teases with attempts at resonance but only delivers on promises of action.

Feast of Love

My favourite scene in Feast of Love involves two passionate dingbats suffering a significant financial setback when the videotape of themselves having sex isn't returning their investment on the by-order porno video market. Apparently they look like they are too much in love and that is unappealing to the prospective customer. Haha! The dude reduced to ordering homemade porn isn't inspired by or interested in (and probably hates you for) your fulfilling and fun sex life.

It is the conceit of the entire movie that people can easily relate to the problems and ecstasies in the love lives of strangers—that the language of relationships is a common one. Functional and dysfunctional relationships are explored but we are never given our bearings in the characters' emotional constructs. Harry Stevenson (Morgan Freeman) has enjoyed an enduring relationship with his wife (Jane Alexander) but how they pulled that one off is a mystery. A woman and a man have a heated affair while she agrees to marry someone she doesn't love and he has the gall to take offence but not leave his wife or return to her. Bradley Thomas (Greg Kinnear) was dumped a couple of times by wives who claim he is blind to their indifference. Actually, it's always Thomas's wives that we see in the sack having fulfilling and fun sex with other people, so maybe the actual reason he can't hold down a girl is that he is a lousy lay?

We have all loved and lost but not in the exact same way and without guidance it is hard to see what the filmmakers are getting at. Perhaps the fatal flaw of Feast of Love is not assuming the audience knows but forgetting they may know better.

Tell us all about it. Write to palermo@thecoast.ca.

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