Ive been writing this column for nearly fifteen years and in that time Ive received a number of interesting letters and e-mailseverything from borderline love notes to legitimate hate mail. Occasionally I may evoke disdain from a reader because of an opinion on a particular film, but more often than not I get a compliment because one of my musings struck a chord with them. Being able to connect with people through writing is a particularly rewarding occupation. I consider myself lucky that I live in a country where I can freely express my thoughts and opinions without fear or retribution. Unfortunately this is not the case in many parts of the world.
Voicing opinions could be a springboard to government reprisals or an early death in some countries. The idea of putting words onto paper and then being in fear for your life seems almost surreal in a place like Vermont. People here are certainly opinionated and full of social objections, but a local jihad remains highly unlikely.
Not long ago I read about a low-level Iraqi politician who was murdered by a terrorist group for his opinions on the direction of his country. The man was intent on giving everyone an equal voice. Unfortunately his voice was silenced before he could help effect any substantial changes.
Terrorism is a heinous act (pull out your thesauri and slap any number of defeatist adjectives in place of heinous and it still doesnt fully define the negative aspects of the word). But of all the ways that terrorism manifests itself, the suicide bomber remains the most disturbing.
Its hard for people in this country to understand the psyche of the suicide bomber. What makes an individual strap an explosive to their body, then walk into a crowded marketplace to kill innocent civilians? Do they really feel that on some level this is a justifiable act? Ive heard about the abundance of available virgins and glory of martyrdom, but seriously, doesnt the brain override these irrational concepts and focus on the reality of the act itself: The senseless murder of children, mothers, fathers, anyone within range of their hateful weapon?
I admit it. I cant wrap my head around the concept. But I also understand that I have not grown up in an environment where I would have been taught to hate from a very young age, an environment that lifts the role suicide bomber to heroic status.
Studies have shown that suicide bombings generally occur in areas of civil unrest where an occupying government is deemed unwanted by the populous. This is a far cry from the current political environment in the United States, but pundits hold that eventually a psychotic opportunist will unleash this profoundly immoral act within the confines of our great land. When this unfortunate event occurs, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will arrive within minutes to to try to deduce exactly what happened.
In this weeks feature, The Kingdom, we are whisked to the Middle East, where a massive suicide bombing has wreaked havoc on an American enclave. Knowing that foreign powers would be reluctant to uncover the entire truth about the event, a team of special FBI agents is dispatched to the bombsite to determine responsible party. While the team is eager for a quick answer, they very soon discover that pitifully few people want them to succeed in their mission.
Obviously, given the current political situation in the Middle East, this is a hot topic. Because of this, and the success of recent films like Syriana, its not surprising that this movie has generated significant interest. Its also not surprising that Oscar-winning talent like Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper signed on to the film. Whats unfortunate is that so little thought was put into the storyline. While The Kingdom does provide an intense, and sometimes troubling, look into the world of suicide bombings, it does so with a cookie-cutter, frequently cliche-laden, approach.
The Kingdom was far from a comfortable ride given the content of its storyline. While it did provide ample amounts of dramatic tension, it failed to fully engulf the viewer into the personal relationships at the heart of the film. Check this one out if you have not yet overloaded on painful Middle East images, otherwise consider a good ol fashioned Western like 3:10 to Yuma. The Kingdom rates only a sand-blown barren C.