I’m not a big fan of the war genre at all because most of the films are, well to put it in simple terms – depressing, overly long or moral, and sometimes disgustingly patriotic (which doesn’t carry well when it’s not your own country being applauded). That is probably why “Three Kings” is such a surprisingly refreshing change from the standard war film genre. There’s no silly flag waving entrance, in fact the entire setup is very realistic and even though its an American film it never once stands up on a ‘moral superiority’ soapbox unlike certain other US filmmakers (you know who you are).
In fact at one point it goes out of its way to illustrate that the whole ‘stability’ and ‘saving lives’ concepts are mere add-ons and the only real reason the US actively got involved in the Gulf War is when it had something major to lose (ie. the oil in Kuwait). Its a very true and believable point which could apply to any country, and while most of us cynics have long known that – quite a few patriotic idealists may find it surprising.
What also makes the film interesting is the time period its set in. Many are aware of what happened during the Gulf War, but in the days after the ceasefire when Saddam slaughtered the rebels and the Allies couldn’t interfere – this was a difficult time which CNN never really showed and which makes for the film’s central issue. Its easy to sit at a desk thousands of miles away and use the excuse of a treaty to allow a country to kill its own citizens, its very different however when you’re on the front lines and its happening right in front of you – and you can’t do a thing to stop it without risking a war.
On top of all the moral and ethical debates is a rather dark sense of humour in regards to both war and capitalism, and a fast pace which helps keep the story going. The direction is also slick with unusual camera angles (eg. internal organ cam) and some realistic gore and action sequences. The film really defies being pushed into a genre with at any one moment being a rather unusual yet hilarious comedy, the next a tense moral drama, and the next an explosive war movie.
At times that proves to be its only major downfall as it jumps too fast between the moods and thus one can easily feel suddenly pulled out of the action. Best example is a scene where the reporter spots a poor bird covered in oil and starts crying which is a truly effective scene showing the devastation of war – but its interrupted by her driver mocking her which is funny but also feels kind of morbid.
All the cast work well together, especially the always at ease Clooney. Kudos should also go to Nora Dunn as the short-tempered reporter constantly being given the runaround. But if this is a career making movie, then its writer/director David O. Russell who deserves the credit with this very creative effort from the debut filmmaker. Not only has he made a movie which is thoroughly entertaining but is also quite thought-provoking. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.