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George At 

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The Kingdom

One of the best fiction films I’ve seen detailing our war against radical Muslim extremists, 2007’s THE KINGDOM is a balanced, interesting story loaded with action and suspense.

After a massive explosion at an American base in Saudi Arabia in which entire families are slaughtered in a moment, an FBI anti-terrorist squad is dispatched to the Middle East for answers.

Working against a 5-day deadline, Ronald Fluery (Jamie Foxx) Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper) Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner) and Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman) are an impressive team, following leads and narrowing in on those responsible.

Ashraf Barhom is excellent as Colonel Faris Al Ghazi of the Saudi police force, who gets past his initial mistrust and forms a strong bond with Fluery and the FBI agents.

Jeremy Piven is perfectly slimy as a political-minded envoy in the middle and Tim McGraw has some nice moments as a widower devastated by the explosion.

The film pulls you in with some of the best action scenes of the past decade, massive chases and long, brutal firefights that are exhausting in their detail and their authenticity.

The biggest action set piece is a car chase and battle on a Saudi freeway that was actually shot on the 202 Freeway in Mesa, AZ before it opened. Shot in July not far from where we live, the 115-degree temps and desert setting doubled for the Middle East. It’s a fantastic scene, matched by a much smaller scale but no less powerful hand-to-hand battle in a weathered apartment building that concludes the film.

Foxx is excellent and believable as an action star and an FBI leader whose close friends have been lost. Cooper is terrific and Bateman brings plenty of levity to his role, making it all the more dramatic when he is kidnapped by terrorists and chosen for the filmed beheadings that these monsters treasure so much.

Director Peter Berg (Patriot’s Day, Deepwater Horizon) has made plenty of solid films, but none of them have been big hits. This is no exception, losing more than half of its $70 million budget in theaters. It deserves a bigger audience.

The film’s final scene is one of its best, with the final dialogue quietly making you evaluate not only what you’ve seen before, but also the perspective of our enemy. We are all, in the end, a product of our environment and what we know. I’ve rarely seen that put more eloquently and emotionally than in the final moments of THE KINGDOM.

This thoughtful, fast moving and intelligent thriller pulls no punches and gets an A.

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