Surprised by "The Kingdom"

After seeing the trailer, complete with machine guns and exploding Suburbans, I wasn’t expecting to like the Jamie Foxx/Jennifer Garner action movie, “The Kingdom”. In fact, as the trailer finished, I turned to my husband and said: “More of the same. Now everyone will be calling us and saying, Is it really safe there? 

The fact is the movie confirms many of the stereotypes Americans already have about the Middle East: oil barons, nervous around women, America haters, and unafraid of violence towards the innocent, even civilians, the trailer showed all that in about three minutes.

Then the reviews of the movie came trickling in – confirming the shallow plotting – and my assumptions about the limited artistic potential of this project. Given the characteristic Doha delay (waiting to see which movies are picked up by the arbitrary local distributor, whose selection criteria for bringing films remains a mystery) we waited and then forgot about this film.

This past weekend, however, it popped up on two screens at the City Center theater, the biggest one in two.

Given that it was one of two English options (the other being “Nancy Drew” we did the usual and went to see it. Heard the saying “beggars can’t be choosers”? It’s true.

To my surprise I found the film much more thoughtful than I had anticipated or hoped for. Granted, there was the requisite grenade throwing and machine gun totting, even a moment where Jennifer Garner gets wrapped in an abaya before being greeted by a Saudi Prince (the U.S. Embassy offical says, “we got to tone down the boobies” before putting it on her shoulders). And the scenes which depict the attack on an American civilian compound, mid-company barbeque and softball game, are harrowing and unrecognizable from our carefree lives in Qatar.

What was gripping were the stories of the Saudi police officers, men just as concerned that the bombers are caught as the Americans. Not because they fear political action, but because, as Al Ghazi, the colonel in charge of the unwanted American visitors says, “I have two daughters and a precious son. Those people got up not knowing it was their last day.” Al Ghazi and a minor character, Hayatham, are standouts while the rest of the Saudis in the film are essenitally protrayed as militant jihadis. 

The violence of this movie distrubed me; it’s so counter to the past three years of livingin Qatar. And this heightened by the fact that on my left was a young Qatari male, shoes off, feet in the chair, chewing his popcorn and burping throughout the movie.

What did he make of all this?
What was he thinking when the bomb maker says “Allah Akubar” after seeing the deaths of hundreds of innocents, including children?
Was he upset? 

Or when the jihadists kidnap one of the F.B.I. agents, wrap him up, film a threat, and then take out a sword to cut his throat?

My peaceful return from safari in Kenya was disturbed by this movie (see Kenya photo gallery). 
It was a rip into the idyll of life in Qatar. 

The end of the movie sums up our impasse: “We’re going to kill them all” both Jamie Foxx’s and the Abu Hamsa character say to various teary people in their lives. 

Regardless of the rest of the movie – this sentiment gets to the core of entrenched nature of this conflict – and should make us all sit up and pay attention.

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