By: Conor O’Malley
Even though it has been about four years since its release, I found myself watching The Kingdom, starring Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner the other day.
It was not the first time I have seen it, but it was however, the first time I had watched it since studying abroad last spring. Granted living in Istanbul, Turkey is different from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but I could not help but feel much more critical of the movie this time around.
Despite the movie being fictional, it is said that the film was supposed to mirror the events of the bombings in the Riyadh compound in 2003. The introduction to the movie was splendid and I enjoyed the creative way that the director caught the audience up with all the activities that Saudia Arabia had been apart of within the past 60 or so years.
The story of the movie follows Jamie Foxx’s character and his fellowship of FBI experts as they go and investigate the bombing of an American compound. Since a good friend of third died in the initial explosion the group of investigators make their way from D.C. to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia despite being blocked by bother the State Department and Justice Department.
Upon their highly unrealistic arrival, they are barred from investigating the scene as it is under the jurisdiction of the Saudi Arabian National Guard. Luckily, Jamie Foxx being as charismatic as he is, is able to befriend one of the Saudi’s State Police investigators. From this Foxx meets the Prince and is able to also convince him to let him and his team take a look around.
Without giving too much away, the story ends on a semi happy note, but that is not why I am writing about it.
I found the way that the Middle Eastern people perceived in this movie was not entirely accurate nor positive. The New York Post movie critic Lou Lumenick said “Hollywood provides the Islamic world another reason to hate America…” calling it “xenophobic”.
In the Middle East, they were thinking practically the same thing. Asia Times Online, critic Kaveh Afrasiabi wrote “non-stop nonsense from beginning to end.”
I understand the nature and reality of extremists in the different regions of the world, whether it be in Saudi Arabia, Ireland, or Palestine, but I am not sure it was Hollywood’s best interest in making a movie about this topic while tensions are tight already with the region.
As I mentioned, I just spent five months in an Islamic country and I have to say that the religious members that I met were always respectful and hospitable. I also realize that the main antagonists of the movie make an extremely small percentage of the Islamic community. However, I have to wonder why we do not make a movie about them instead. Maybe it won’t sell as many tickets?
I worry that it is films like The Kingdom, that foster Islamic fear within the American community and does not educate the public about foreign cultures in a positive fashion.
If you have some free time, I suggest watching the movie and I hope to hear your interpretations of the film.