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Three Kings

Rated R for language and war violence
Starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze and Nora Dunn

CineSight Rating ** 1/2

At the close of the Gulf War in 1991, a group of U.S. soldiers come across a map. It indicates the hiding place of millions of dollars in gold bullion, stolen by Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. In the midst of chaotic post-war celebrations, they set off on their unauthorized treasure hunt.

Following the map, the group consisting of Major Archie Gates (Clooney), Chief (Cube), Barlow (Wahlberg) and Vig (Jonze), arrive in a small Iraqi village. The bullion is soon discovered in a bunker, alongside shelves full of TVs, food processors and other hoards of luxury items. Now that war is 'over' President Bush has ordered the military to keep out of local affairs, leaving Iraqi resistance fighters that fought Hussein, defenseless. The treasure hunters load up their loot, oblivious to the rounding up of Iraqi rebels in the village until they get drawn into the brutal situation.

Inadvertantly, our greedy foursome break the cease-fire by rescuing several rebels. They immediately find themselves under attack from the local Iraqi army. The rebels turn around and manage to rescue the gold and three of them, but Barlow is captured. They strike up a deal - the rebels will help rescue Barlow and provide transportation for the soldiers and the gold, if the soldiers will see them safely over the border into Iran.

The remainder of the film deals with Barlow's rescue and the odyssey to the border. Gradually the treasure hunters' greed is replaced by conscience, as they determine to see their rebel friends to safety.

THREE KINGS has received much critical acclaim for the way in which it deals with the subject of war, and the 'media war' in particular. Nora Dunn plays a tough CNN-style reporter on the treasure hunters' trail, allowing us to see the quirky, strained relationship between the military and the media. The major accomplishments of the film are, I think, technical. All the desert scenes are given a gritty, bleached look with a lot of very close hand-held camerawork. Fast and slow motion are used to great effect in the battle scenes, giving a sense both of frenetic chaos and of moments agonizingly stretched out.

Like SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and a host of other recent war movies, THREE KINGS reminds us that war really is hell. It does little to glorify the senseless brutality, and shows us the effects of politics and military might on the lives of regular people caught up in the insanity, where normal rules of right and wrong are so confused.