Three Kings

Three Kings is a film where a bunch of interesting and involving ideas about the U.S.-Iraq conflict in 1991 are strung together in a fairly haphazard manner. The incongruous combination of the harsh realities of war, governmental power plays, and Hollywood action-humour make it surprisingly effective.

There is a plot to envelope the social commentary: The Gulf War has ended. Sergeant Major Archie Gates (George Clooney), Sergeant Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), Chief Elgin (Ice Cube), and Private Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze) are four soldiers in search of gold bullion stolen from Kuwait by Iraq (of course, their intention isn't to return it to Kuwait). As they proceed in their search, they encounter dishonesty, greed, corruption, oppression, and hypocrisy. The primary victims are the Iraqi civilians and so the soldiers change their modus operandi to start helping these people.

Films such as this one border too much on sentimentality, but in my view, Three Kings is a far more effective anti-war film than a film like Saving Private Ryan. The movie touches upon several disparate issues: the notion of conducting a propaganda war through the use of media (each side readily accepts the presence of TV cameras); the real reason the U.S. interfered with respect to Kuwait (which probably has just a bad dictatorship as Iraq) but doesn't do anything about Tibet and East Timor (oil); the reason Iraq was able to invade Kuwait in the first place (thanks to American arms and training); the behaviour of governments to serve their own interest as part of the politics of war (Bush promised the Iraqi resistance support, but withdrew it when the cease fire was declared); the behaviour of governments to do anything to cement their power base; and even comments about a culture that persuades a black person to appear more white (Michael Jackson).

All of these aren't just stated to the audience, but it is really forced down their throat by scenes that fly in-your-face and make it hard to ignore. For example, oil is forced down the gullet of an American prisoner to make him comprehend the real reason for the Gulf War. These messages are brought even more to the forefront with surreal filming (including a scene with a desert where the soldiers play American football) and distinctive characters. The acting is fairly decent, but it is the kinetic nature of the film that ultimately makes it successful.

Consumer capitalism or a dictatorship? The odds are still in the favour of the former, but the film tries the show the darker side of both. Bold in its ideas, Three Kings is a film that one will probably love or hate. Ultimately, it is a tale about the brutality humans inflict upon each other to satisfy their material greed. There is humour here, but between the times we're made to laugh, there is a lot of depth to this material. As a pacifist, Three Kings illustrates the virtues of non-violence, because if you use violence as a solution to a problem, even as a last resort, what logical grounds are there to not follow the same view in the future? Violence begets violence.

Movie ram-blings || Ram Samudrala ||