COUNTRY:                USA 1999
MUSIC:                       CARTER BURWELL
CAST                          George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Nora Dunn, Jamie Kennedy, Mykelti Williamson, Cliff Curtis

Anti war films can be an interesting breed of stuff. One can get super heavy with the usual Spielberg budget, and show people that something was magnanimous, and awfully Hollywood'ish. We can get an Oliver Stone to paint an image (more than once) that was is messed up, but it has its good side. And then we can have films where it makes things impossible to live with as in Stanley Kubrick.

And then, there appears, once in a while a film that states things in a totally different way, and makes it  difficult to tell whether it is a personal film, or simply one of those films that decided that pulling out all the stops was the best thing to do, with a total disregard for the subject and personal much of anything. THREE KINGS is one such film -- and believe it or not, the only time that the film sags is when it tries to make it "deep" towards the middle when the captured American is being punished. In the end, it is all a foregone conclusion anyway -- who's going to believe anything the film does? -- it finally makes the only one point that it might be after from the start. A life may be worth saving, even if it is a bit of politics, or military disobedience.

With a cantankerous style, reminiscent of the old days of Luis Bunuel, this mostly irreverent film brings out the story of three army guys that decide to take the thing in their own hands. Basically they are just sitting around, when they discover what may be a treasure map. And decide to go after it. In doing so, things get a bit tougher, but eventually they are capable of acquiring a sizeable amount of the booty. As it turns out, in the land where bribery is a way of life they are discovering that a lot of what they want to do is not as easy as that. In the process they end
up meeting up with a bunch of refugees, or Iraqis that have chosen not to join Saddam Hussein ... it suggests that  when we see Iraqi helicopters trying to mow down everyone in sight ... probably to prevent any stories from making it through to the rest of the population. The 3 Kings end up helping the refugees and finally take them to the Iranian border where the other Army people are now hip to what these people are doing. Of course they all do the right thing. They have witnessed what Saddam has done for his own people. Basically end of the film, with the exception that one made it to here, the other to there, and the other three to ... not necessary, but makes the film more fun to deal with.

Probably of best interest in this film is how it is cinematographed. Very obvious, specially, is the way that things tend to blur and appear distorted by the sun's hot rays in the desert. Hallucinatory moments are extended and seen time and again, in a dizzying array of pyrotechnics that actually makes this film a lot of fun to watch. At the same time, on occasion, it does the same thing with bullets moving around, and hitting people, which creates a difficult thing for us. But we won't take that part seriously, in what, by all intents and purposes is actually a fairly strong commentary of a film. I would almost call it a documentary, in that what was found by the 3 Kings, could just as easily been found by any other batallion all over the desert, and probably were found. So this comes off as a hallucinatory bad day by CNN with a camera on, and everyone hell bent on not caring how things went, or turned out. Sort of.

Acting wise, it is hard to judge, although it is much more difficult to act in a space where there is no emotional attachment of any kind, which as it turns out is this films major attraction and point. It allows you to do all sorts of things. The question at that point, is, does it make it better? In this case David O. Russell's direction pretty much decided that it would. We can't classify this as an anti-war film, any more than we can say that we have really screwed up morals ... wait a minute, so does the enemy that we are fighting and the judgment of those around us, hell bent on promotions, or as the reporter displays, trying so hard to make sure that they have the story they want, not the rest of it. And the individual streaks take this all into another hallucinatory stage ... is it the desert? ... or is it that we don't even know or care what the hell we are doing here.

A fairly enjoyable romp in the desert. Not quite for the faint hearted as it does have some violence, and at times it even borders on the cartoon'ish side of things, once again affected by the hallucinatory nature of the desert, I'm sure. Well directed. Excellent production design and concept.  Actors are very clean and well defined character wise.





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