The Movie The Kingdom

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:

     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
          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
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          `outmoded' to `outdated,'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?
          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
  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.
               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.


About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Conflict History, Conflict Movies, Conflict Processes, Uncategorized, Ways to handle conflict. Bookmark the permalink.

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