The Kingdom begins with a flashy timeline listing key moments in Saudi Arabia’s 20th century rise to power. The discovery of oil, a resource whose number one buyer is the United States, lifted the Royal Family to its position as a global force with the ability to influence current affairs by opening or closing pipelines. The timeline ends with the silhouette of a plane crashing into a large black tower, an event caused indirectly by America’s relations with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a gruesome reminder of the price of consumption.
The movie plays like a procedural. An attack on American oil workers in a housing compound on Saudi Arabian soil leads FBI agents Richard Fleury (Jamie Foxx), Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner), Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman), and Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper) on a personal mission after a subsequent explosion kills an agent. Finding the killers and bringing them to justice within five days seems impossible; add to that political entanglements, evidence tampering, and the status of the FBI agents who enter the investigation in an advisor-only capacity.
For a movie where so much is at stake and with so little time, there are too many chance encounters, too many victories, and not enough tension which would elevate if the team ever had a real chance of experiencing failure. The FBI agents seem intelligent enough, but their skills and abilities only lead them to a smaller faction responsible for the attack. The final breakthrough comes via a direct attack on the team leading to an action-packed final act where guns blaze, the heroes save the day, and the mystery is solved. The film ends with an interjectory point, an a-ha moment unexpected in a movie that didn’t really strive for (or failed to make) political or grand statements. The final line is jarring, intelligent, and thought-provoking. If only the rest of the movie was as effective.