This superb – though very violent – mix of comedy, drama and action is set in 1991 at the end of the Gulf War.
Hearing a rumour that Saddam Hussein has stashed stolen Kuwaiti gold in bunkers, US soldiers Major Archie Gates (George Clooney), Staff Sergeant Chief Elgin (Ice Cube), Sergeant Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg) and Pfc. Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze), embark on a secret field trip with the help of a map they find concealed about an Iraqi soldier’s person.
It seems simple enough: grab the bullion and be rich for the rest of their lives. However, their quest for wealth is diverted when they reluctantly agree to help a group of Iraqi dissidents who are being tortured by Saddam’s men.
They retreat right before reinforcements arrive, but happen upon a minefield and become separated. Troy is captured by Iraqi soldiers and the remaining Americans are rescued by local rebels and ushered to an underground hideout where Conrad, Chief, and Archie make a deal with the rebels, offering to help their families if they are first allowed to rescue Troy.
The other Americans eventually free Troy, although Conrad is killed in the process. Each of the rebels receives a bar of gold for his services, and the remaining gold is buried.
The group reaches the Iranian border, and the Americans attempt to escort the rebels to Iran, but new American officers arrive and arrest the three soldiers while recapturing the rebels. Archie tries to bribe the officers, but they respond by saying that charges will be brought against Archie, Troy, and Chief Elgin.
In an epilogue, the film states that the three surviving soldiers (Archie, Troy, and Chief Elgin) were cleared of the charges and honourably discharged. Archie and Chief are now working in Hollywood as military advisors, and Troy is back home with his family, running a carpet store. The stolen gold has been given back to Kuwait, which claims that some is missing (implying that some pilfering has occurred).
Wittily scripted by director David O Russell, it boasts terrific performances (especially from Clooney) and takes some well-aimed stabs at the late-20th-century phenomenon of war waged on television. It’s reckless, gripping and unmissable.
The opening scene of Three Kings was filmed on a dry lake bed outside Mexicali, Mexico, but most of the film was shot in Arizona, near the abandoned Sacaton Copper Mine, about six miles northwest of Casa Grande, between Tucson and Phoenix, where toxic mining chemicals had wiped out all vegetation.
Many of the extras were played by actual Iraqi refugees, all of whom were recruited from the Iraqi community in Dearborn, Michigan.
Major Archie Gates
Sergeant Troy Barlow
Staff Sergeant Chief Elgin
Private First Class Conrad Vig
David O Russell