A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this intense, bloody movie isn't for kids. There are explosions, shootings, hand-to-hand combat, torture, kidnapping, a careening car chase, explicit shots of bloody bodies and body parts, and more. The overall plot and themes are also mature -- terrorism, graphic crime investigation, children at risk and killed, etc. -- and the camerawork is especially chaotic (some viewers may be bothered by its pretty much nonstop movement). Language includes multiple uses of "f--k" (which offends the Saudi police chief) and other profanity.
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What's the story?
After civilians are killed in a post-9/11 terrorist attack in Riyadh, the FBI calls in Special Agent Ron Fleury (Jamie Foxx), who quickly assembles crack team -- forensics examiner Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner), explosives technician Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper), and intelligence analyst Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman).The team heads to Riyadh, where tensions are high. The Americans bristle at predictable "backwards" thinking from the locals, including efforts to curtail their tough-guy language, conceal Janet's figure, and restrict their access to the crime scene. Ron insists they be allowed to look for evidence, question witnesses, and even go off the compound in order to determine the bombers' identities, though everyone seems to know right away that the head villain is Abu Hamza (Hezi Saddik). To offset the "bad Arab" vibe, the film also includes a very good one, police colonel Faris Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom), who inspires Ron to persist. Since the team has only 36 hours to build a case, they work fast and rather ruthlessly, inciting the outrage of local authorities and, apparently, terrorists, who decide to take revenge by exploding cars and kidnapping a team member.
Is it any good?
Equal parts action movie, police procedural, and cross-cultural tolerance lesson, THE KINGDOM boasts charismatic stars and a topical focus. But for all its energy and pyrotechnic brilliance, Peter Berg's new film is strikingly old-fashioned. It didn't have to be this way.
While it's obvious that the team will recover their man, the film underscores his brutal abuse by hooded captors -- just to make sure you know they deserve all bad things coming to them. While the U.S. offensive is supported by the Riyadh police (especially noble Al Ghazi), the focus is on the Americans, who are characterized as fierce, committed, and utterly selfless. Though Ron admits to Al Ghazi that he's aware of his nation's many imperfections, the film seems stuck on this primary points: When push comes to shove, Americans are right.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how violence is portrayed in this movie. Is it realistic or gratuitous? What message is the movie sending about the cycle of violence in the Middle East? Who "wins" in this movie? Families can also discuss how the U.S. FBI team members react to their new environment in Saudi Arabia. Are they respectful or arrogant? How do they get what they want, even when they're supposed to obey local restrictions?