THREE KINGS, 1999
In a war without heroes they are kings
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Upon finding a map Archie Gates (George Clooney), Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), and Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) decide to go against the U.S Army and attempt to find the gold hidden in one of Saddam’s bunkers. They have been involved in an extremely passive war, which as the film explores doesn’t see that much action. Whilst at the bunker they begin to see why exactly they are there, when they see how the Iraqi people are treated by Saddam’s soldiers.
What separates Three Kings from any other war film is the war itself. The film depicts the boredom of the war for the U.S soldiers with great interest. This was later explored in Sam Mendes’ Jarhead a few years later. The opening of the film shows an Iraqi soldier getting their head shot off by a U.S troop. The U.S troops mock the dead Iraqi. Straight away the audience realise that this is not going to be Saving Private Ryan. The U.S Army in this film are not necessarily the heroes. Instead O Russell is going to show the audience an extremely realistic depiction of war, where cruelty and ignorance are qualities possessed by the “heroes” as well as the “villains”.
Newton Thomas Sigel’s telecast lense creates a grainy feel to the film. Shot in the deserts of Arizona, California and Mexico, the cinematographer makes the audience feel that is actual shot in Iraq. Sigel had worked previously on documentaries about civil wars in South America; this makes him a great choice for the film as he clearly understands the war environment in less privileged countries.
This being said Clooney is undoubtedly the star of the film. His charm and charisma carries the film but he also shows the internal conflict which the character is under brilliantly. Wahlberg and Ice Cube play their parts well even if they feel like obvious supporting roles to Clooney. One of the unnoticed stars of the film, Spike Jonzes, takes a break from behind the camera and creates a hilarious character in Conrad Vig.
Three Kings is O Russell’s first studio film and shows him as a solid talent in the film industry. Three Kings is one of the first masterpieces of the twenty first century. It was over shadowed by American Beauty in the year of its release but it is this reviewers hope that I will not be forgotten.