Thursday, August 23, 2007

CSI: Riyadh

Sydney White wasn't the only September release I saw this week. Wednesday night brought The Kingdom, which looks like some CIA or war movie in the Middle East, but is neither. As the extended intro explains, the FBI has jurisdiction over incidents on U.S. military bases, and our protagonists go to Saudi Arabia to investigate an explosion that killed about 100 Americans.

The forensic team (Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, and Jason Bateman) encounters bureaucracy stateside and traditions abroad, both of which hinder their abilities to collect the kind of evidence that William Petersen and David Caruso can obtain in their sleep. But the FBI manages to find some proof to track the likely mastermind of the attack. They're assisted by a Saudi police colonel (Ashraf Barhom, in a terrific performance) who is assigned to babysit them, but becomes their steadfast ally. As you might expect, their careful lab work leads to some high-powered action by the film's resolution.

Ultimately, though, I feel duty-bound to mention that this film describes a fictional incident. Despite the provocative and gripping story, I thought making this movie was irresponsible. It contains the kind of American imagination that can change patriotism into xenophobia, and worse, might give our enemies ideas. (I'm reminded of the pilot episode of The Lone Gunmen, which aired in March 2001. In it, terrorists were attempting to destroy the World Trade Center using a hijacked airplane.)

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