I like the movie The Kingdom, directed by Peter Berg, because it gives a realistic impression of the complexity of the political situation in Saudi Arabia, and it is also a high quality action movie. But I like it for another reason. Buried in the middle of the movie is an exchange between the Attorney General Gideon Young, and the Head of the FBI Director Robert Grace, in which Young attempts to bully Grace over the unauthorized dispatch of an FBI team to investigate a terrorist bombing of Americans in Saudi Arabia. I think its punch line should be read by almost anyone in a seriously responsible leadership position, particularly one concerned with saving lives:
INT. GIDEON YOUNG'S OFFICE - EVENING RUSH HOUR, EST 63 Director Grace already sits in front of Young's desk. DIRECTOR GRACE Good afternoon, Sir. Young says nothing, just pulls a memo from his bag, clears his throat -- still no eye-contact -- reads aloud like a poor man's Orson Welles: GIDEON YOUNG `Sunlight is indeed the most powerful disinfectant. (MORE) KINGDOM 8/18/06 53. GIDEON YOUNG (CONT'D) In that spirit I come before this Judiciary Committee with a painful admission. (beat) Simply: I've lost all confidence in the FBI, especially it's uppermost echelon. Entrenched and outmoded, the Leadership has shown itself fearful of the pioneering thought this Committee and I have tried to imbue. It is thus an Agency at contretemps, hindering our every effort.' And by `Committee' I mean the fucking SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON TERROR... Young finally makes eye contact: expecting something like fear, remorse, back-pedalling... DIRECTOR GRACE Senators? Then I'd change `outmoded' to `outdated,' `echelons' to `ranks' and what in God's name is `contretemps?' These guys aren't the best and brightest- Young's face flashes red, seething: GIDEON YOUNG -never take the Lord's name in vain in this office- DIRECTOR GRACE -but you can say `Fucking?' Young apoplectic now: ready to end the Director right there, when Grace leans in, lets the vague threat of physical contact manifest. DIRECTOR GRACE (CONT'D) You're going to the Senate Select Committee, but not to the President who appointed you. Why's that? (beat) I bet the President wasn't the audience you thought he'd be: I'll bet he realized you can't have Voters asking why the second- longest serving FBI Director gets fired for doing his job, for sending Agents into Saudi Arabia, seven months from mid-term elections- KINGDOM 8/18/06 54. GIDEON YOUNG -you really want to bet? Grace snaps his ID badge off his lapel, puts it on the table. DIRECTOR GRACE I do. Young's pallor tells us his bluff has been called. Goes silent. Grace smells it, finishes him now: DIRECTOR GRACE (CONT'D) Westmoreland made all us Officers write our own obituaries during Tet, when it looked like the Cong were going to end it all right there. Once we clued-in that life was finite, the loss of it no longer scared us: the end comes no matter what, it's just a question of how you want to go out: on your feet or on your knees. After that, we went out and pulled triggers until barrels melted. And Vietnam lasted another seven years. (beat) The lesson extends to this career: I ACT, knowing the end of this job will come, no matter what. You should do the same. Grace waits: nothing else from Young. Stands, snaps his ID badge back on his lapel, walks out. DIRECTOR GRACE (CONT'D) I'll forward Fleury's reports. This is Richard Jenkins who plays Director Robert Grace: the sort of character I like. :) And Thanks to Nancy for recommending the movie some time back.