David O. Russell, 1999
There are two things to remember about Three Kings:
1) It’s a heist movie disguised as a war movie
2) It’s a fantasy.
When it gets to the end and the characters don’t meet the downbeat ending that one would expect that second fact is what has to be remembered. That’s why the ending isn’t un-authentic. None of this is real. Very early on, it’s political satire and one of the last Tarantino-style films of the decade (lots of zip/snark dialogue, pop soundtrack, and trick shots.) These are feints however later to be re-contextualized. As our characters, four of them actually the title is a reference to a piece of dialogue, gain a social conscience those other elements feed into the fantasy.
That this is what we should have done in the Gulf War in the first place.
So it is a fantasy where America did the right thing after all. The main characters who begin after selfish gain (like America) become selfless and help the war refugees, gain empathy (like America did not.) The Iraqi people were left with their asses in the wind and we didn’t have shit to show for the effort. It became some sort of karmic barometer, clusterfuck, that led us down the road to this day and to when the U.S. eventually came back. So when the characters reach their good fortunes at the end of the movie, it now in this context 10 or so years later, shows the karma that could have been all of ours if the right thing had been done in the first place.
-Daniel Von Egidy, 2011