The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Video review:
Three Kings

Apr 28, 2003

The ongoing U.S. military occupation of Iraq has made Three Kings, a movie made by David O. Russell in 1999 and available in video stores, interesting to watch again.

The movie starts out like another Hollywood action romp. In the aftermath of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, four American soldiers, played by George Clooney, Ice Cube, Mark Wahlberg and Spike Jonze, sneak behind Iraqi lines to steal gold from the Iraqi military. Their plan is to grab the gold and split.

But that's where Three Kings starts to follow a different, and much more interesting, story line than the typical Hollywood action film. The soldiers find themselves in an unexpected situation. There is an uprising going on in that part of Iraq, which the Iraqi army is busy crushing. The soldiers can't escape a confrontation with the Iraqi army, which they survive only thanks to the help of the rebels.

Thus we get a glimpse at the events immediately following the U.S. campaign against Iraq in 1991. After the quick U.S. victory against the Iraqi forces, two uprisings broke out against Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Three Kings shows how U.S. forces stood by and allowed Saddam Hussein to crush these rebellions with much bloodshed. We see the local people, who are first caught up in a very destructive war and then betrayed by the U.S., under a sympathetic, humane light – which is not so common in Hollywood war movies.

The four soldiers themselves represent a realistic cross-section of the U.S. troops that are sent to fight these wars. Three of them are reservists. Two are trapped in low-paying jobs; the third is unemployed. These three young, working-class men certainly don't see any prospects for their future back in the U.S. There is also an interesting scene in the movie where the soldiers raid an Iraqi bunker in search of the gold, only to be confronted by the torture of Iraqi rebels and images of the Rodney King beating on CNN at the same time.

The movie doesn't attempt to explain what's behind these images it shows us. And its ending reminds us that what we watched is still a Hollywood movie after all. Nonetheless, Three Kings not only manages to be entertaining; it also brings us an image of war-torn Iraq that is far more balanced and honest than the one-sided, false portrayal of "liberated" Iraq we are bombarded with daily by the U.S. media.