Saturday, September 01, 2007


Sneaking up on unsuspecting American audiences at the end of September is a new movie from director Peter Berg called The Kingdom. If all you know of it so far is the poster of Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner wielding assault rifles, just understand that this pic presents a challenging marketing problem, and be grateful it was ever greenlighted at all. I was fortunate enough to catch an early screening recently, and -- well, the whole time I was sitting there, my mouth agape, I was unable to stop muttering "How on Earth could Hollywood have accidentally allowed this movie to be made?"

Notwithstanding a few moments of seemingly muddled moral equivalency at the end, The Kingdom may be the closest thing we're ever going to get to an honest, pro-American movie about the "Long War" anytime in the foreseeable future. Yes, at its core, it's basically just a buddy picture, where Foxx is the "fish out of water," forming a reluctant alliance with the mysterious Saudi guy "in a world where everything is topsy-turvy and anything can happen." Still and all, when the alternatives to DePalma's forthcoming Redacted and its ilk are practically nonexistant, The Kingdom deserves to be widely seen and heavily discussed when it goes into general release next month.

Without giving anything away, there will be absolutists who argue that its morally ambiguous ending negates the whole premise of the film -- but I would profoundly disagree. In fact, the case can be made that exactly the opposite is true: The ending actually illustrates the utter vacuity of the argument put forth in some quarters, that both (small-L) liberal democracies and (capital-I) Illiberal Islamic societies are driven to conflict by mutual fear, suspicion and illogical hatreds. Indeed, the hollow falseness of that conclusion is convincingly laid bare by the entire rest of the film.

Those who cringe at the thought of DePalma's agitprop setting the national agenda need to vote with their dollars and make The Kingdom a huge surprise Fall blockbuster! Because, at the end of the day, Hollywood doesn't care about pro-war or anti-war. Box office is the only language studio moguls understand, and collecting your dollars is their only agenda.

(This post originally appeared as a comment to Roger L. Simon's blog, slightly edited here for grammer, clarity and accuracy.)

Labels: , , , ,