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Three Kings

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The previews made this look really cheesy and formula.  My mom said she saw several good reviews.  It was much better than I feared.  The basic premise sounds like Kelly's Heroes.  I expected a goofball collection of characters to joke their way through contrived situations to a Hollyweird happy ending.

The movie starts right off with moral dilemma.  Mark Wahlberg's character and his squad come upon an Iraqi soldier.  One pair of Walberg's squad is helping another get a grain of sand out of his eye.  Two others are equally distracted, relaxed and careless.  Walberg notices that in addition to a white flag, the Iraqi is holding a gun.  Walberg warns the others that the Iraqi has a gun and tries to get him to drop it.  But the gun waves around, pointing towards Walberg and the squad, and Walberg shoots him.  Was the guy trying to surrender?  Obviously, he didn't understand English.  Was he scared enough that he might have accidentally shot someone?

There was a lot of comical setup used to contrast the multiple moral dilemmas.   And it was done pretty well, making the movie much more interesting and less predictable.

I know most people want to hate Clooney for his pretty-boy image.  He doesn't annoy me nearly as much as most people.  I thought he did a fairly good job with his part.  He was described as Special Forces, but I don't think they ever specified which branch.  Fortunately, they didn't try to give him super-human abilities, like most Hollyweird movies.  He was simply a very intelligent soldier.

Ice-T is pretty good at playing characters with lots of confidence and attitude.   And the other guy played a pretty good idiot.  ("He dropped out of high school."  "Don't tell them that!")

The one character that stood out as gratuitous was the reporter.  A Saturday Night Live member, her character was very one-dimensional.  She was very self-absorbed and walked very conveniently into the diversion set up by the main characters.

There were styles of cinematography and editing used.  In some scenes, they used the high shutter speed hand-held technique used in Saving Private Ryan.  In other scenes, it looked more like grainy documentary shots.   They even have some super close-ups that actually worked.  Usually, those come across as annoying melodrama.

In one scene, there's a standoff between the main characters and Iraqi soldiers.   Someone shoots once which starts a series of retaliation shots.  Instead of showing the confusion in real time it was shot in slow motion as if you're experiencing the heightened senses you hear about so much in eyewitness accounts.  You hear the first bullet zip through the air and hit the first person, and you see their reaction.   You see another person decide to shoot, the shot, the zip, the hit.  And so on.

In a few cases, they have some stream of consciousness scenes sort of like Ally McBeal.    In some cases it's a flashback and in others they show what a character is imagining.  The bits are short and utilized well.

The story made a fairly good progression, dragging the characters into the lives of some Iraqi refuges.  They did succumb to a Hollyweird happy ending.

Interesting techniques carried this story, though I was disapointed with the convenient happy ending.  On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, Matinee.

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Last modified: June 14, 2004
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