Published on January 10th, 2008 | by Chris2
Three Kings (1999)
I guess since the first Gulf War (at least on the ground) only lasted a couple of months, there probably aren't a lot of stories to tell. At least we can fall back on Three Kings to fill in the gap.
Somewhat a re-telling of the Kelly's Heroes story, it follows four soldiers in their quest to steal some Kuwaiti gold bricks out of the hands of Saddam's army, *after* the war is over. Unlike with Kelly's bunch, though, things go terribly, terribly awry in a surreal series of events that wind up telling more of the story that needs to be told more often.
Major Archie Gates (George Clooney) catches wind of the map that Sgt. Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), Chief Elgin (Ice Cube), and Pfc. Vig (Spike Jonze) find in a surrendering Iraqi's, um, backside. Once they figure out what they've got, they set out on their quest in true '90s style.
But, like I said, things don't go as planned, as they wind up covered in the blood of a wandering cow that steps on some unexploded ordnance before capturing the gold. The Iraqi's on site are only willing to get the Americans out of their hair, so they can deal with the "rebel" problem. And that's where things start to go south.
They wind up taking a group of (presumably) Shiite civilians with them, and in the escape, Barlow is taken prisoner by the Iraqis. The other three are forced to strike a deal to get the civilians to an Iranian border crossing, and along the way rescue Barlow.
What makes Three Kings so unique I think is the somewhat surreal style that permeates the first half or so of the film. The washed out colors of the desert are over exaggerated, and it really puts you in a wasteland frame of mind. Not until later in the film do the images take on a more traditional tone.
More importantly, the movie makes a bold statement about the failure of the first Gulf War to serve the Iraqi people's interest. Once Iraq was driven from Kuwait, the US basically said, "OK, bye!" and left the opposition on their own, and they were subsequently put down, men, women and children alike. Not until we went back did this story really come to light (as I recall it) and for this film in '99 to bring it up was pretty daring in my opinion.
There's lots of elements of the film which make this more of a picture of the Gulf War than say, Jarhead, too. The Iraqi bunkers full of junk like computer monitors, stereos, boomboxes, and luxury cars. The shallow journalist looking for the story, and having to be "handled" by the Army. The scene with Barlow and the cell-phone is especially one of those bits which is pretty damned funny when you think about it.
Clooney, "Cube", Wahlberg, and Jonze... the chemistry between the four, and the type of characters they portray really works in the film's favor as well. It just "works" to use a dumb movie reviewer phrase. There just isn't any other way to explain it.
About one-third comedy, one-third war movie, and one-third political statement, Three Kings is still a little surreal and strange for a lot of folks. I really like this movie, though, for reasons I just can't put my finger on.
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A confident hybrid of M*A*S*H, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and Dr. Strangelove, Three Kings is one of the most seriously funny war movies ever made. Improving the premise of Kelly's Heroes with scathing intelligence, it explores the odd connection between war and consumerism in the age of Humvees and cellular phones...
DVD InformationBinding: DVD
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Manufacturer: Warner Home Video
Original Release Date:
- George Clooney
- Mark Wahlberg
- Ice Cube
- Spike Jonze
- Cliff Curtis
Summary: About one-third comedy, one-third war movie, and one-third political statement, Three Kings is still a little surreal and strange for a lot of folks. I really like this movie, though, for reasons I just can't put my finger on.