The plot of Three Kings is mainly about 4 men who go
into an Iraqi village after the end of Desert Storm in the early 90's. They get a map
secretly from a strange and smelly hiding place. They want to take gold that Saddam had
stolen from Kuwait. They find it and develop consciences. These soldiers decide to help
the Iraqi villagers in rebellion against their horrendous dictator. This is done in
defiance of orders to stay away from any civil battles being fought in Iraq. Thats
the gist of it.
Director/Writer David O. Kelley, that's not the guy who writes such shows as Ally McBeal and The Practice, does a great job of putting the oddly shaped pieces of the puzzle together. His script attacks politics, army policy and the preconceived notion of the Iraqis. The script is the first war movie I've seen with perfect timing. It's not a pointless movie. There is a reason for its being. This movie shows that even something as pure as heroism and human kindness can be punished.
George Clooney gives a vital performance as Captain Archie Gates. He's the brain, the piece that is necessary for this movie to work. Gates is two weeks away from retirement and he wants something to bring home from what he believes was a meaningless war. If it were just Ice Cube and Mark Wahlberg out there, the Iraqis would have been totally doomed. This role seemed very similar to his role in the 1997 film, The Peacemaker, but his supporting cast is more effective here. That film paired him with Nicole Kidman and was just a week army/mass destruction and death movie.
Ice Cube and Mark Wahlberg give worthy supporting performances. Both of their performances don't seem to be a big jump from their previous characters. New names and maybe some additional information on their character. Wahlberg is still Eddie from Torrance in Boogie Nights renamed Troy Barlow. He has grown up a couple of years, dropped the bell-bottoms, married with his first kid just popping out of his wife's womb. Oh yeah, and hes not a porn star. Ice Cube is a religious African-American known as the Chief. He's a tough, obedient soldier who joined the army for some extra money and to get away from his crappy airport job in Detroit.
Then there is the inexperienced southerner that idolizes Troy named Conrad Vig. Spike Jonze, director of the upcoming Being John Malkovich, plays Vig. He wants to go wherever Troy goes. He also wants some money, so he's in. He offers the highest amount of comic relief but not with wit. His comedy is similar to the reason you laughed at Woody Harrelson in Cheers. Basically, hes a dumb southerner. He's very funny and necessary to show us another side of the chief, the racially motivated side of Mr. Cube. They all have good motives for the wanting gold but not too much incentive to put their lives on the line for some foreigners who they don't know. That's what makes them human. No stone cold hearts, as Ice Cube says "well help these people then we'll be on our way." Little did he know this required taking them across part of Iraq to get them to the Iranian border. Men with bad intentions who end up doing good. They become the American Robin Hoods.
This movie has charm and visuals. I got into the movie. Three Kings is the reason that I see and review movies. I go out there to find the good stuff, dig through the crap and find the jewels that are worth your money. So far 1999 has been a year of many disappointments but Three Kings and American Beauty have begun to fill the void for quality filmmaking that had been lacking. To take a quote from Mortal Kombat: this is hopefully "a taste of things to come" for the fall.