Top critical review
on December 8, 2002
One of the few mainstream films to be set in the Gulf War, Three Kings, is an interesting, entertaining, critically acclaimed, but totally improbable military adventure. In 1991, during the clean up operations after the end of the war, reservist soldiers Barlow (Mark Wahlberg) and Vig (Spike Jonze), discover a map ...of a captured Iraqi prisoner. The two soldiers, along with Chief Elgin (Ice Cube) are reviewing the contents of the map when they are interrupted by Major Archie Gates (George Clooney). Gates, from Special Forces, shows the group that the prize to be had is actually stolen Kuwaiti gold bullion, hidden in a nearby village. Soon the group is on their way to claim the treasure from Saddam's Army, anticipating a "milk run", expecting to complete their mission in a morning's time.
Arriving at the village, the group is greeted enthusiastically by the villagers. Iraqi soldiers are in control, and have as prisoners Bush inspired rebels, but no gold is to be found. Believing that they have made a mistake, the Americans leave. Realizing their mistake, they return to discover the gold in a hidden bunker, claiming it in the name of the USA. With the help of the occupying Iraqi soldiers, the bullion bars, housed in hand luggage, are loaded into an Iraqi truck. The group is about to leave the village, when an innocent civilian is brutally murdered. This incident starts a chain reaction of violence that changes the whole dynamic of their for profit only mission.
It is also from this point, that much of the story's credibility falls away, and logic no longer seems to matter. The Americans, leave the village, taking as many of the Iraqi prisoners as they can. As they speed away, they are gassed by mortar fire, causing their vehicles to crash, and spilling the gold out on to the desert. Can perhaps six mortar rounds, really cause a large section of the desert to become so clouded with gas, that visibility is reduced to near zero? Then fortuitously, members of the rebel forces appear at exactly the right spot, to rescue their friends and the Americans, and recover the gold as well. They all then disappear into a hidden underground cave located in the middle of the desert. How lucky can you get?
Meanwhile, after launching the gas attack, Saddam's finest head out into the desert and succeed in capturing Sgt. Barlow. Yet somehow they don't pursue anyone else, and have absolutely no interest in recovering any of the stolen bullion. Barlow is immediately transported to a holding facility for interrogation. Information is apparently more valuable than gold. From this point, Three Kings continues along an improbable path to a questionable conclusion. The US Army is apparently unable to locate the renegade group, which is operating within driving distance of their base camp.
If you ignore the elements which don't make too much sense, and just concentrate on the film's technical and action aspects, there is much that is impressive and entertaining. George Clooney is always a competent lead actor, and the supporting cast is solid. Cliff Curtis a Maori from New Zealand, is excellent as the Iraqi rebel leader. The film covers events that few others have been willing to deal with, and has much to say about the nature of war, and the Gulf War in particular. However, the logical inconsistencies, and rather weak ending do distract from the film's total impact. Three Kings is good film well worth seeing, but falls well short of being a great one. The DVD is loaded with many extras including several commentaries, and a making of featurette.