Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Kingdom: Oil as the Setting, Not as the Plot

Like many others, I used this week's blogging assignment as an opportunity to watch "The Kingdom," a movie that I had wanted to see for a while. I will admit that I am a sucker for big budget Hollywood action flicks, and I found the plot/characters/etc. to be interesting, so I definitely enjoyed the movie. What I noticed though (as is hinted at in the title), was that the movie primarily used Saudi oil production as a vehicle to set up a story of intergovernmental politics and terrorism, and that once the "brief history of The Kingdom" intro ended, oil itself didn't seem to be on anyone's mind.

I guess I was just hoping for a more focused look at the intricacies of the linkages between the government and oil industries in Saudi Arabia and America, topics that the movie seemed to leave in the dust after the first few minutes. It may seem obvious to some of us that oil is the entire reason for the movie's existence, but I feel like the general viewer may lose sight of that theme when watching Jamie Foxx dodge RPGs.

I did enjoy the movie's take on the political structure and process in Saudi Arabia, and while I'm sure that situations were sensationalized to a degree, the portrayal of the Saudi power structure was interesting. Specifically, I found it interesting how "pro-American" the higher levels of the Saudi goverment were portrayed as being, and I wonder to what extent that various levels of authority in Saudi Arabia really support a positive relationship with the US government and the American people.

What I believe was most powerful, however, was the overarching theme that despite all the ideological and cultural differences, Saudis and Americans are not so different. If you haven't seen the movie or do not recall, "The Kingdom" ends with the revelation that both the Saudi bomb maker and Jaime Foxx's FBI agent share the same sentiment that "we'll kill them all." I think this is an important message to send when, at least in America, we are so quick to assume that everything we think, know, and love, is the "right way to do it."

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