F.I.L.M. of the Week (December 10, 2010)

10 12 2010

With the release of David O. Russell and Mark Wahlberg’s collaboration “The Fighter” today (albeit in only four theaters), I thought today would be as good a time as ever to feature the duo’s first movie together, “Three Kings,” in the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” column.  The poster and topic may make it seem like your average war movie, but Russell’s knack for style and substance both in his script and direction elevate it to one of the most unconventional and exciting entries in the genre.

Iraq, 1991.  Operation Desert Storm is over, but four soldiers who see little action feel a little unfulfilled.  They wonder what they actually accomplished during the mission since they were so uninvolved.  Boredom, curiosity, and intrigue combine to bring together a group of four unlikely people together on a strange mission.

The burnt out Major Archie Gates (George Clooney) leads family man Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), dumb redneck Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze), and hard-as-nails Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) on a search for Kuwaiti bullion they think is hidden in Saddam’s bunkers.  Following a map they found in a prisoner’s butt and their unbounded desires to strike it rich, they traverse through dangerous territories in Iraq waving the banner of freedom as a Kevlar vest for their journey.  However, what they find amounts to a whole lot more than gold.

“Three Kings” is not just about an expedition for gold; it’s about what happens when humanity gets in the way of things.  Along the way, the four soldiers encounter a number of situations with two choices: helping themselves or helping innocent Iraqi citizens.  Gates and company find it harder and harder to choose in self-interest despite getting closer and closer to the gold.  Russell’s movie is a powerful testament to the kindness of the human soul and how it can remain intact even during war.

Clooney, Wahlberg, Ice Cube, and the hysterical Jonze are all fantastic in helping the movie to shine, but “Three Kings” is David O. Russell’s movie, and he knocks it out of the park.  His script is a strange mix of comedy, drama, and action, but it never fails to satisfy, often on multiple levels at once.  Behind the camera, he toys with several experimental techniques to produce one of the most eccentric-looking war movies I’ve ever seen.  He provides a very different sort of artistry for the genre, and it’s a fantastic retrospective statement on our time in Iraq (before our second entry) that packs one heck of a punch.

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