Although I recently got praised for my two paragraph review of Sliding Doors , I'd promised myself I wasn't going to write any more reviews for public consumption 'til I got better at it. But my enthusiasm, and my unwillingness to edit myself, got the upper hand.
There are two types of reviews. The type of review which tells the reader whether the reviewer liked the move (book, whatever), and the type of review which tells the reader enough information that they can make their own decision without giving away too much of the content to lessen the experience. The former? It didn't suck. I'm going to try for the latter.
I categorize action movies into those that use the violence as an adrenaline boost to leave the audience exhilirated, ala The Matrix, and those that use it as an illustrative point in a more complex story.
One of the failings of Three Kings is that it sometimes has trouble figuring out which one it should be. Certainly the previews show it as the former, the low camera angles of Clooney and Ice Cube with the time lapse clouds streaming by over them give the impression of a testosterone charged romp through the end of a war from the victor's perspective. But those shots in the movie are used to quite different effect.
Heady with the victory of the 1991 war in Iraq, a bunch of buddies come across a map which points the way to a large cache of the spoils of Kuwait. Having experienced the whole war at a distance and feeling somewhat hollow in their celebration, they set a buddy to the task of keeping a nosey reporter out of their hair for a day, commandeer a HumVee, and set off in search of fortune.
There's very little soul searching. These are very simple characters caught up in progressively more complex events, and they're never forced to make the tough moral decisions presented in, say, Full Metal Jacket, which this film seems to be compared to a lot.
The film is shot on a high contrast and high grain stock. In the same way that these soldiers have been insulated from the reality of the war, the audience is set behind images that they'd expect to see on the pages of Time, providing that glossy "sucks to be them" sort of detachment we get when we see images of bombed out hotels next to ads for the latest luxury automobile.
And much of the surreality comes from special effects shots which evoke some of the USA Today sort of "charts and graphs" feelings in a way that borders on the gimmicky.
What I have trouble forgiving is some of the cleanness of the movie. Yes, there are some disturbing scenes of gore, but by and large soldiers tend to die fairly quickly, there's less coughing up blood and lingering than seems realistic, and we lose few characters that we've gotten attached to.
And the ending just wraps up too many loose ends; leave us some questions and soul searching, damn it!
But overall a movie which far transcends its previews, and unlike so many media experiences nowadays a movie that I felt had some deeper explorations and didn't lay out all the morals with a two by four.
I enjoyed it, and didn't feel slimy afterwards. There are far too few movies that I can say that about. Recommended.
Friday, October 15th, 1999 firstname.lastname@example.org