Movies can serve as wish fulfillment, an idealized version of would-of, should-of, could-of. That's true of The Kingdom, a gripping action-thriller in which an elite FBI unit flies to Saudi Arabia on a quickie mission to root out terrorists. If only it were really this easy.
Despite bureaucratic roadblocks at the highest levels of both the U.S. and Saudi governments, the American team (Foxx, Garner, Cooper and Bateman) heads to Riyadh after Islamic terrorists detonate a bomb that kills and injures hundreds of Americans living in an oil-company compound there. With savvy detective work and the help of a Saudi colonel (Barhom) in charge of keeping them safe, the quartet is soon zeroing in on the group behind the atrocity.
Kingdom presents the current horrible mess that is the U.S.'s involvement in Middle East politics and, by proxy, the Iraqi war, realistically but with a hyper-heroic Hollywood edge and ending. Adeptly directed by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights), this is a smart, exciting film, and yet it can't help pandering to our most jingoistic instincts. At the screening I attended, when Garner—engaged in hand-to-hand combat—plunged a knife into a terrorist's groin, the audience cheered loudly, and one woman proclaimed, "That's an Oscar right there!"