Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Kingdom

(Movie Review)

The other day I walked into work and my manager clasped her hands in front of her in a pleading motion. Never a good sign. I knew I was about to be asked for a big favor.

"Oh no," I said. "I don't like that look."

"Joel san, can you go down to Oita city today? There's no one there to teach the lessons."

Because of the continuing financial troubles with the company, many of the foreign teachers have walked off or have been calling in sick. In Nakatsu we've all been pretty good and have still been coming in regularly despite all the bad news. Oita apparently isn't so lucky.

My co-workers were having a good laugh about my predicament. One of them shouted out, "Don't go," and then when I signed the necessary papers, they began making whiplash noises.

For a moment I myself wondered if I might be too nice of a guy. Continuing to show up for work after we hadn't been paid was one thing. To be used as a band-aid for the worsening situation and sent all over Oita Prefecture at a moment's notice was another. And yet I recognized a good deal when I saw one. The staff had reduced my 8 hour day to a 3 hour day. I was given 5 hours to make the one hour (each way) drive to and back to Oita. The rest of the time was mine to use at the shopping mall.

And whilst down in Oita, I thought I would take advantage of being in the big city and go to the movie theater (something we can't usually do in our countryside town in Nakatsu). Unfortunately, just like the last time I was in Oita, there was nothing I really wanted to see. I even thought to myself, "You know, I've been watching more than enough movies on DVD lately. Do I really need to go to the cinema just because I happen to be in town? Maybe I should just head back early without seeing anything." But it seemed a little sad to just jump in the car and head all the way back without at least giving myself some kind of reward for the drive out here. So I decided to watch "The Kingdom", which is just coming out in Japan, and looked like the best possibility out of all the mediocre films that were playing.

The loss was entirely mine. And by that I mean the loss of 2 hours of my life which I will never get back. I should have just cut my losses and gone back home early instead.

This movie was advertised as a topical movie, but aside from the opening credits (which host a 2 minute summary of the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia), it's not really a commentary on US-Saudi Relationships any more than "Predator" is a commentary on South American politics. It is simply using the backdrop of Saudi Arabia to do another terrorist movie thriller.

The film has one good point, and that perhaps makes up for a lot of its flaws. The simple reminder that most of the terrorist attacks against the US were not perpetrated by Iraq or Afghanistan, but by Saudi nationals, is something that is easy to forget amidst the daily barrage of lies coming from the White House. But at the same time you could write a book about the things this film doesn't talk about (such as the fact that the CIA armed and equipped many of these terrorist in the 1980s when they were fighting against the Soviet Union).

The plot of this film is mildly interesting. It's sort of a mystery story trying to piece together clues and figure out who did the latest terrorist attack. But any hope you have of a well put together mystery story should be put to rest right now. In the final act they are able to find the terrorists because the terrorists just jump right out and attack them.

The dialogue in this movie is awful. Seriously, whoever wrote the dialogue should be dragged out into the streets and shot. Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh. They should at least get a good punch in the gut. The jokes are especially awful, but the whole movie has a corny cliched tone. I don't know how much Hollywood screen writers get paid, but it's too much.

The camera was constantly shaking and looked hand held. I'm not sure why. To give the movie a sense of realism, or to be hip and cool. In the action sequences it made me flat out nauseous, but even in the quiet talking parts you can see the camera bouncing up and down.

Link of the Day
Blackwater and Haditha: A Tale of Two Atrocities

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