“Three Kings” is a war movie released in 1999. It was written and directed by David Russell from a story idea by comedian John Ridley. The movie was a moderate success at the box office, but was critically acclaimed. At the time of filming, George Clooney was a TV star hoping to make a splash in movies. He worked hard to get the reluctant Russell to cast him. Spike Jonze made his acting debut in the film. The movie is set in March, 1991 – “the war has just ended’. This is a reference to the Persian Gulf War.
|is this dude surrendering?|
|Gates, Barlow, and Elgin|
They find the gold, but they also encounter civilians being threatened by Hussein’s loyalists. The civilians are part of the rebellion against Hussein that was encouraged by the Bush Administration. Our heroes are only interested in the gold so they simply watch while the civilians are killed. Just kidding. Russell is not breaking new ground here. The quartet intervenes in a wild firefight that is one of the coolest ever filmed. The use of slo-mo and graphic visuals of bullets entering bodies is visceral. The battle is not depicted as a fireworks extravaganze, but more like a multi-player tennis match.
|Vigs isn't giving up his gold|
The plan to rescue Barlow revolves around making the Iraqi captors believe Hussein is coming in person and boy is he pissed. Since the Iraqi soldiers are Iraqi soldiers, they fall for this and most run off. Unfortunately, an Iraqi helicopter arrives to change the equation. (This is a reference to how Hussein used helicopters to put down the Iraqi rebellion due to the fact that the Bush Administration did not cover non-fixed wing aircraft in its no fly ban.) Too bad the insurgents did not have explosive Nerf footballs like Elgin uses on the helicopter. Why did the U.S. encourage the rebellion and then not provide the explosive Nerf footballs? What kind of foreign policy is that?!
Barlow is rescued and in a “you had the better argument” recognition lets Said go. The quartet (minus one) get some trucks and head for the border with the rebel families. Unfortunately, at the border the Iraqis are not allowing anyone to enter Iran and Gates’ commanding officer arrives in a court-martialing mood. Luckily, being an American, he might be open to a bribe of golden bars. It’s redemption time for our scheming rogues.
“Three Kings” takes an historical event (the Iraqi uprising after the Persian Gulf War) and injects a fictitious story into that chaos. When the Persian Gulf War ended with Hussein still in power, the Bush Administration encouraged the Iraqi people to rise up. The Shia in the South took up the call and at first were successful. Unfortunately, the war ended with the Iraqi Republican Guard crippled, but not powerless. It was able to carry out Hussein’s orders to ruthlessly put down the rebellion because fighting lightly armed civilians was more its skill set than combating the U.S. Army. To make matters worse, the peace agreement did not forbid the use of helicopters. An oversight that was to bring disaster to the insurgents.
|a bullet trail|
The movie is not just eye candy. The acting is stellar from the ensemble. Even the novice Jonze holds his own. Clooney’s charismatic performance conclusively proves that his decision to jump from TV was a wise one. Wahlberg cemented his status as a major star. More importantly, the screenplay is thought-provoking. It does not preach, but makes it clear that the period at the end of the Persian Gulf War was a messed up situation and the U.S. should not be proud of our role in the Iraqi Insurrection. It even includes a sympathetic Iraqi torturer (Said). In some ways it is a biting satire of the military and the media. Although the bigger picture is conveyed, the movie dwells at the human interest level. It depicts how government decisions affect civilians.
Carcker? Absolutely. Possibly in the Top Ten.