"Three Kings" is some kind of weird masterpiece, a screw-loose war picture that sends action and humor crashing head-on into each other and spinning off into political anger.
a scathing dark comedy about the first true media war. George Bush's war was very carefully choreographed and scripted to look like a tremendous victory for good old American know-how. What we didn't hear much about is what happened to all the Iraqis that Bush exhorted to rebel and topple Saddam Hussein -- those poor souls that Bush then abandoned.
Along the way, the encounter the wreckage of Bush's war, not just the surreal desert landscape punctuated with oil fires or the oil-slicked wildlife, but the wreckage of Iraqi life. The Vietnam movies of the late 1980's did a good job of portraying the other side as human too, yet it takes an extraordinary amount of bravery to portray the Gulf War as the cynical exercise in political and economic self-interest that it was.
Three Kings provides a bold interpretation of America’s first Gulf War. And it strikes a precarious balance that will make it a difficult film to classify: It’s an outrageous comedy and a challenging morality play, while at heart its a classic Western (set in an unlikely context).
The Gulf War is a dangerous subject to raise on the big screen. Since we have been led to distrust the media’s presentation of American involvement overseas, we don’t really know what went on over there,
What would you do if you found yourself in the middle of such a betrayal? Would you do what you could to help those Kuwaitis in danger, or would you follow your country’s social policy to the letter, knowing that good people would suffer the consequences?
Couched as a Hawksian World War II adventure, Three Kings is, in essence, an essay on the failures of Gulf War I, foreshadowing why the current post-Saddam American occupation plan has been grossly miscalculated by the current Bush Administration. Three Kings offers mainstream Americans a human context of American military intervention through Iraqi eyes, the deep sense of betrayal felt by anti-Saddam dissident groups, Iraqi resentment of perceived American interests, and an idea of how to reconcile these differences. In short, world events have ordained Three Kings as the most important American movie of the past decade.
The movies have shown us an undisciplined military in the past, but rarely has being in the army been portrayed as an intercontinental frat party—
But the largely unreported "erosion of discipline" and subsequent abandonment in Gulf War I has, according to the leaders of Iraqi dissident groups, only deepened mistrust. This is where Three Kings is its most powerful: Describing an Iraqi viewpoint of American military intervention, which threatens to undermine an American occupation of the country and the Bush Administration's vision of a post-Saddam Middle East.
The most curious aspect of these visions of a post-Saddam Middle East is the Americanized perspective. It assumes that democracy is infectious: that once a nation rubs elbows with soldiers of a free nation, then it will embrace democracy itself.
Three Kings helps us interpret this position by describing the little reported consequences of Gulf War I: The irreparable harm brought about by perceived American betrayal of Iraqis and pirating of Kuwaiti oil during the first Gulf War.
Director David O. Russell toys with our expectations of the action film genre to show that our perceptions of war don't always mesh with the real implications of war.
It's not American ideals, products, or wealth they reject, but American double standards set according to its interests in wealth
Even Western educated Arabs have turned against the United States because they perceive that the United States no long represents "American" ideals. The peasants refer not to the "United States of America," but the "United States of Freedom"—it's not "America" they need, it's freedom. Iraqis, educated or not, will not accept "America" if they cannot equate it with "freedom," which, in the current context, apparently many cannot.
The irony plays as a swift joke, but darkness lurks underneath: How can the Iraqi people accept America's sincerity of "liberation" when its conduct provides so much evidence to the contrary? Or, in the language of Three Kings, how can American liberation be sincere when the country is being looted of its riches?
But underneath the Hollywood ending is the idea that the American public needs an unconstrained media if it is ever to have a complete, complex portrait of events half a world away. The major American media outlets accepted the escort-only rule under protest, but seemed all-too-willing to accept an untainted, yellow-ribboned victory. The deep divisions over this conflict necessitate precisely what Three Kings calls for: Media free of unreasonable military intervention, which buried the most unsavory aspects of the last Gulf War.
In the end of the film, the boys sacrifice the gold after sharing it with the poor Iraqis. The idea is that we will have to sacrifice our own interests of wealth to win the people's trust, that we care about them as a people, as a nation—not just as an uprising that needs to be mollified so that the American kings can steal their gold.