American foreign policy in the Middle East is fucked up and David O. Russell’s black comedy war drama is a perfect look at how. The Gulf War is over, the cease-fire signed, American troops are preparing to leave but Iraqi rebels who stood up against Saddam Hussein have no support. Th film starts at first as a treasure hunt, with the USA legally allowed to seize all assists stolen by Hussein from Kuwait, four soldiers decide to take a newly discovered map to collect a large amount of Kuwaiti gold bouillon from a bunker.
George Clooney, Mark Walberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze are the soldiers who embark on the expedition, they think they have it all figured out. They don’t to leave Iraq and go back to their boring day jobs and believe they deserve something more from their service as soldiers. The story takes a swift turn in tone as the film no longer is this heist film of the desert but a harsh reminder of the reality of war. When wars end that doesn’t mean everything with it is just over, there is always collateral damage. The soldiers find the gold but discover the certainty of what America will be leaving behind in Iraq.
Russell handles the political message and themes of the film so well that when the tone changes of the film work very naturally for the audience. The struggle of the soldier and the refugee are shown respectfully, Jonze portrays basically a hick, a dumbass who should have no place in the military and is the joke of the team. The film develops an arc for that character, all the characters so that the conflict they finds themselves has you invested in many different stories happening at once. The characters start off as selfish, using their authority as soldiers to their personal advantage for their “mission” but the film develops their characters and they are forced to make sacrifices not just to save themselves but the lives of many. Would you risk political peace over an innocent life? That shouldn’t be a question one should ask themselves, if you see a civilian in danger you should intervene to save them.
Clooney’s arc of the film is a disillusioned soldier finding purpose, at many points in this film characters question why America fought the Gulf War and no one can give an answer. Archie Gates played by Clooney is an officer who doesn’t understand why he’s a soldier anymore and decides to go AWOL for a big score. When everything goes to hell, he has no choice but to lead and give up his own personal desires to save the lives of many, what all four of the soldiers are doing is illegal but morally right. This film questions war and the collateral damage it will leave behind, the bravery of refugees and how messed up foreign policy is.
Three Kings is going to move you, it’s a surprising film that doesn’t exploit its setting but faithfully interprets it on screen. It is not a patriotic war film that has you saluting the flag as the eagle sings but it never disparages the military. It shows how complicated it is, military is run by command, soldiers have to follow orders – so while certain characters are obstacles for the protagonists that does not make them antagonists. It shows that right and wrong is not black and white, while morally the characters are in the right they do not start that way but despite their faults they can unite and stand for something greater.