the kingdomDirected by: Peter Berg.

Written by: Matthew Michael Carnahan.

Starring: Jamie Fox, Chris Cooper and Jennifer Garner. 110 min. R.

Review top sheet: a lavishly produced CIA psy-op masquerading as entertainment: the status quo as defined by the people at the helm of the American government with their demonstrably tenuous grip on sanity is the only way decent people could want it. And anyone who refuses to get with the program is a terrorist.

Will you like this film?

  • Yes, if you are doing a PhD on the use of entertainment to mould public perception and have to go out on a field trip in the next week.
  • No, if the Fox News version of 9/11 and reasons for the “War on Terrorism” require more mental gymnastics to be accepted than you are able to perform without a lobotomy.
  • Maybe, if watching shakycam for 110 minutes is a pleasant experience for you.


General comments: so what has Donald Rumsfeld been up to since he left off setting up torture camps and goading us ever closer to Armageddon? Having seen The Kingdom, I think I know. He has moved into movie production.

This film takes the clumsy patchwork of unverified government claims which makes up the prevalent myth surrounding 9/11 as unquestioned fact and moves on that basis. Here, in the wake of this (as it were) act of incomparable and unprovoked horror, a group of kind, gentle American civilians is mown down in Saudi Arabia by yet more of the crazy terrorists.

Never mind that the US routinely blows up civilians abroad, when someone returns the compliment, it really matters. Some are so much more equal than others, it seems.

This film – like so much that Hollywood churns out – is utterly disconnected from primary causes. At no point was it allowed that such a dramatic step as blowing oneself up is the last recourse of a people with no hope, nowhere left to go, whose lives, countries and cultures are being systematically destroyed. Nor that the CIA created and funded (is that past tense?) many so-called terrorist groups into existence in the first place. And not a word about the Bushes’ intimate business connections to the bin Ladens. No, of course not. Americans have been attacked. Someone must pay.

Goebbels was a genius. He was the first to understand that if you want to impress the human psyche in a particular way, rather than asserting your position openly (which permits rebuttal), you simply have that position woven into the fabric of your story as an accepted fact, and build the rest of your production around that assumption. Hollywood soon caught on and has never looked back.

It would be wrong to say all the Arabs in this film are evil. Not at all. There is a place for them in Mr. Rumsfeld’s worldview: they can watch American TV, wear baseball hats on the wrong way, smile a lot and bring their hosts drinks while their countries are being asset stripped by US corporations. Now, that’s a good Muslim. If you don’t smile enough, however, there’s always Abu Ghraib.

It was really quite funny to watch American forces with furrowed brows fighting valiantly against local bureaucracy to conduct a thorough forensic investigation after a bombing, when at home, all the debris from 9/11 was loaded directly onto trucks, put on cargo boats and shipped off to China never to be seen of again. A more spectacular destruction of evidence the world has not seen. But then America has become almost synonymous with double standards.

But aside from all the propaganda, was it a good film? I didn’t think so.

Out-of-five star ratings:

  • Story: *
  • Acting: **
  • Substance: **
  • Film craft: **


Story comments: the story serves the object and the object is to teach us that Americans are good and Arabs are not (except for the ones which like the Americans, want them running their countries and are prepared to catch a bullet to that end).

Acting comments: I really like Chris Cooper. I think he is a fine actor. It was a shame to see him prostituting himself.

Substance comments: it’s okay to kill lots of locals as long as you pass round the chocolate and chewing gum afterwards.

Film craft comments: er, shakycam and yet more shakycam. I think they thought it would give the film gravitas. What it does is bring on epileptic fits in anyone sitting in rows one to five.

A taste of the story: a terrorist act in Saudi Arabia requires the forensic professionalism of American specialists to be resolved properly.

Published by The Moscow News.

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