(Universal, 2007) D: Peter Berg, w/ Jamie Foxx, Ashraf Barhom. Rating: NN; DVD package: NNN
A weak script and a sharp turn into action-film territory make a promising idea into a nothing-special movie. Peter Berg’s three-camera, capture-the-reality style only works if the reality is captivating. Otherwise, it just highlights the clichés.
Terrorists bomb a U.S. compound in Riyadh. FBI agents want to investigate, but neither the White House nor the Saudis want them to, and when they get there they’re not allowed to work.
The script is especially feeble on how they overcome those problems, and not much better on the crime scene investigation. Then it’s time for the big action finale, which works fine as spectacle but is utterly predictable as drama and obliterates the story’s narrative arc.
Nevertheless, the film conveys a sense of the futility of American involvement in the Middle East. It has a few effective dramatic scenes and some fine acting by Palestinian Ashraf Barhom as the Saudi cop on the case. Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper and Jason Bateman do good work, but only Foxx has any character. The rest are merely plot functionaries with character tics.
The extras are fun, particularly the detailed anatomy of the big car crash and a timeline that provides a short and very uncontroversial history of Saudi Arabia.
EXTRAS Director commentary, extensive making-of doc, car crash and Saudi Arabian history docs. Widescreen. English, French, Spanish audio and subtitles.