The Kingdom of the title is a reference to Saudi Arabia. A potted history in the opening credits boils down everything that’s ever happened to the country to oil or the United States. America, we are reminded, is the number one oil consumer in the world and Saudi Arabia is the number one producer. This précis also suggests that the Saudi monarchy are in constant battle with extremists, an element that turns out to have ensnared every single Saudi character in a movie that depicts Americans as technically savvy and Saudi Arabia as a backward country.
After a terrorist attack has killed scores of US citizens in Riyadh, a group of FBI agents are given five days to investigate the crime. Among this team are Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx), Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper), Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner) and Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman). Director Peter Berg initially concentrates on the police procedural side of things as the search for the Saudi head honcho of the terrorist group is sought (sound familiar?). This is all the more galling because The Kingdom sets itself up as a serious political drama with both the Saudi and American authorities blocking the investigation for political reasons, even though the cardboard cutout FBI agents are provided with a chaperone in Saudi police chief Al-Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom) who is the needle in the haystack (the nice Arab). Even the action sequences are boring. This is the kind of one-dimensional cartoon nonsense you imagine will play well in the White House.