Three Kings hit screens in October 1999 and arrived during a modern revival of Hollywood war films. The genre had been quiet since the late 1980’s, but from 1998-2001 masterpieces from Spielberg, Malick, Scott, and David O. Russell put their distinguished mark on the genre. Three Kings is a big budget studio picture made to look like an auteur independent production. The film has an extremely capable cast led by George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Ice Cube, and the cinematography is vibrant and compelling. Like Oliver Stone before him, director David O. Russell uses a mixture of bleach process and film stocks to achieve a hyper-realized vision of combat and it’s consequences.
Amid the partying and confusion at the end of Operation Desert Storm, four American soldiers (George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze), determined to take home more than sand fleas, go off into the Iraqi desert to find millions of gold bullion that Sadam stole from Kuwaiti. This act of unauthorized theft plunges the men into a democratic uprising that turns their plan and their lives upside down.
Three Kings is at times satirical, absurd, kinetic, and shocking. Amid all of these elements, Russell brings home the story and supplies the viewer with visual dazzle and cerebral moral dilemmas. This is the most enjoyable of the war films released from 1998-2001, it has a vast tapestry that mixes humor and violence in a manner similar to Robert Altman’s work decades before.
Director: David O. Russell
Stars: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze