Critical consensus on The Kingdom (rated R for violence and language) has been that it is nothing more than an action movie whose setting in a Muslim country with the specter of Islamic terrorists is incidental. In fact, the film is so thought-provoking I couldn't help but wonder if some reviewers are deeming it a "popcorn thriller" as punishment for not provoking the right kind of thoughts.
In an Oscar season defined by a spate of anti-war, anti-Bush films, The Kingdom is neither. It also isn't necessarily pro-war or pro-Bush. Rather it is a well-acted, well-paced, and phenomenally directed film about the complex nature of the fight we're in.
After terrorists attack a U.S. oil company compound in Riyadh, intentionally killing women and children, a team of FBI investigators (Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, and Jason Bateman) gains clearance to help the Saudis investigate. Once they arrive they find their efforts hampered by bureaucratic red tape and fear of the Taliban. Their own behavior doesn't help matters as they make little attempt to conform to the Middle East's cultural norms. The team members not only curse indiscriminately, they also move with a swagger that gives some credence to the "ugly American" stereotype.
Director Peter Berg doesn't shy away from showing the methods of Islamofascists. It is difficult to overcome a foe who is willing to sacrifice not only his own life to a false god, but also those of his wife and children. Unlike most War on Terror films hitting theaters this fall, he also isn't afraid to acknowledge 9/11 and the U.S.S. Cole and American embassy bombings as part of our reason for engaging in this fight.
Yes, there are scenes that will elicit rage-any story that deals truthfully with the nature and tactics of the enemy should elicit our rage. But there are also scenes that humble us, engendering love for Muslims who have suffered at the hands of terrorists as much as we have. In spite of a couple of missteps-like a tacked-on ending and a few too many one-liners-The Kingdom is a serious movie for serious times.