25 March 2000 | Gem-22
Funny, shocking, thought provoking and honest.
A film for anyone who ever relishes the triumphal note of western war films, who gets carried away by the moral high of being on the winning side. For those who saw the good in the Gulf War, saw how many people America helped and was proud to live in the Western world.
Three Kings is an anti-war film. Its opening scenes are not the declaration of war, but soldiers celebrating its end. Then coming to grips with its consequences.
Of course, Saddam Hussein is depicted in the customary role of the villain, but then so is George Bush whose abandonment of the Iraqi people he had called to rise against Saddam is illustrated with examples of human suffering - emotional as well as physical.
Don't get the idea that this is a bleak and 'worthy' film, in many ways it is, but it does it with such style and black humour - that forces you to laugh even while being disgusted or perturbed - that it is eminently watchable. But still edgy, I was pleased to see one couple walk out (though they might just have gone to the toilet, who knows, I was absorbed by the film and didn't pay enough attention).
Director, David O Russell, ensures that the film never gets carried away with action scenes - bullets have consequences (good and bad) even when fired by an all-American soldier. There is some stunning cinematography. Particularly shocking to me was when Iraqi soldiers fire at a tanker. Nothing's more shocking than the unexpected and dramatically understated (I didn't see the trailer, though I believe that scene was actually in it).
There are some interesting cinematic devices in the film. The next time that sepsis comes into conversation I'm sure anyone who has seen the film will call to mind scenes of a bullet travelling through the body. I've seen less violent films than some people, but have been swept away by their power many times - become blasé about bullets and cinematic death. I've seen it all too often before to care about nameless victims that stand in the way of the power, wit, and understanding of the hard-bitten, long-serving soldier, wielding a justice in the shape of a gun.
Russell claimed to make every bullet count in the film, and in one memorably calm scene of confusion and crossfire, he certainly does. The style of the film however doesn't detract from its content. Three Kings doesn't have pretensions of addressing difficult issues by showing the manly, serious face of George Clooney looking a little concerned after killing a few dozen of the enemy. It has intelligent dialogue and moving scenes of confrontation between the opposing ideologies of the Americans and their 'allies' and 'enemies' alike.
Not the best date movie in the world. Funny, shocking, thought provoking and honest, 8.5/10.