(out of 5)
After a series of bombs and gunfire attacks are unleashed upon an American compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a group of FBI special agents in Washington whose friend was one of the many victims request to be sent over to the crime scene to investigate. The Saudi government, not wanting to risk losing control of the country (and for that matter its rich oil resources), bar any American interference whatsoever, until one savvy agent (Jamie Foxx) manages to wheedle himself and his three colleagues (Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman) in for some minimal observation. Once there they find themselves looking at an investigation badly managed by a clumsy general and finding sympathy with a congenial police officer (Ashraf Barhom) who is assigned to guard and translate for them. Although it may at first seem like a heartless exploitation of the volatile political situation in the Middle East (complete with a nifty “Arab-American Relations For Dummies” opening that encompasses a century of history in three minutes), this is actually a wholly involving drama with strong performances and exceptionally tense moments. Director Peter Berg tries a bit too hard to recreate Syriana and Black Hawk Down with his jarring camera stylistics and editing, but this only endangers an accusation of originality, not necessarily quality. The film’s most central political message, that the entire Muslim world isn’t to be blamed for the devastating work of a small group of radicals, is a good one, though it may fall on deaf ears; if you’re stupid enough not to know better in the first place, you’re not necessarily going to have your mind changed by a Hollywood movie. However, let’s love them all for trying to expand minds while entertaining them, and let’s also be impressed that they cast Jennifer Garner as an FBI agent but didn’t make her wear a push-up bra or lip gloss.
Directed by Peter Berg
Screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan
Cinematography by Mauro Fiore
Music by Danny Elfman
Production Design by Tom Duffield
Costume Design by Susan Matheson