Three Kings (1999) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • In the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, four soldiers set out to steal gold that was stolen from Kuwait, but they discover people who desperately need their help.

  • A small group of adventurous American soldiers in Iraq at the end of the Gulf War are determined to steal a huge cache of gold reputed to be hidden somewhere near their desert base. Finding a map they believe will take them to the gold, they embark on a journey that leads to unexpected discoveries, enabling them to rise to a heroic challenge that drastically changes their lives.

  • In the days immediately after the Gulf War, a group of American soldiers come across a secret Iraqi map, which discloses the whereabouts of a bunker where Iraq is storing stolen gold and treasure from Kuwait. The soldiers hope to take the gold and keep it for themselves. However, when they arrive at the site, they discover that the Iraqi army is more concerned about persecuting its civilians than stopping them from stealing the gold. They learn that the civilians have been encouraged by the U.S. government to rise up and fight Sadaam Hussein, but are facing certain execution because the U.S. military refuses to help them. This incident creates a crisis of conscience for the American soldiers. Do they take the money and run, leaving the civilians to face certain death at the hands of the Iraqi army? Or do they risk losing the gold in order to escort them to safety across the border into Iran?


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The film opens with Army Reserve Sergeant First Class Troy Barlow (Wahlberg) shooting an Iraqi Regular Army soldier pointing his weapon at Troy after seemingly trying to surrender following the end of the Gulf War. With Private First Class Conrad Vig (Jonze), Troy disarms and searches the surrendering Iraqi soldiers, and while forcibly subduing a resisting Iraqi officer they find a document hidden in his rectum. The document appears to be a map, and Troy decides not to notify his commanding officer, instead taking the "Iraqi ass map" to Staff Sergeant Chief Elgin (Cube), a friend of his. While the trio discuss the implications of their discovery they leave Specialist Walter Wogeman (Jamie Kennedy) to stand guard outside the tent.

    Meanwhile, Major Archie Gates (Clooney), a Special Forces soldier in the same camp, is trading sex for stories with a journalist, Cathy Daitch (Judy Greer), when he is interrupted by Adriana Cruz (Nora Dunn), the television reporter assigned to Archie. Adriana tells Archie of the rumors of a secret map. Archie avoids Adriana and finds the tent of Troy, Conrad and Chief. Archie convinces the three soldiers that the document is a map of Saddam's bunkers, including information that can only be viewed using a black light, containing gold bullion stolen from Kuwait. They decide to steal the gold and set off while Wogeman drives Cruz around the area to distract her.

    Using the cease-fire orders from President Bush, the Americans are able to raid and secure the bunkers without any bloodshed. There, among other goods plundered from Kuwait, they find the gold. As they are leaving they see a prisoner executed by the newly arrived Iraqi Republican Guard troops, and decide to abandon their plan to "grab the gold and go." They rescue a group of Iraqi prisoners, including a local rebel leader, and start a private war against Saddam's loyal soldiers.

    After a firefight in the village and arrival of the Iraqi reinforcements, the Americans' vehicles are destroyed as they blunder into a minefield and the Iraqi soldiers capture Troy. A group of rebels rescue the remaining Americans and take them to their underground hideout. There, Conrad, Chief and Archie agree to help the rebels and their families reach the Iranian border, after they rescue Troy.

    Meanwhile, Troy has been taken to an underground bunker. Placed in a room full of more stolen Kuwaiti goods, he manages to find a usable cell phone to call his wife and tell her to report his location to his local Army Reserve unit. His call is cut short when he is dragged to an interrogation room. Electrical wires are placed around his ears, and an Iraqi intelligence officer, Captain Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui), berates him about the hypocrisy of American involvement in the region. He also tells Troy about how his child was killed when a bomb hit their home and the roof collapsed on the baby's crib. Troy is subjected to several electric shocks, and is finally forced to drink motor oil.

    The group meet up with a band of Iraqi Army deserters who are willing to help them by selling them a fleet of luxury cars stolen from Kuwait. With these cars they go to the bunker to save Troy, and scare away most of its defenders by spreading the rumor that an enraged Saddam is coming to kill them. After storming the bunker they free Troy, who, being a father himself, spares the life of his torturer, as well as more Shi'a held in a dungeon. Leaving the complex, they are attacked by an armed helicopter, which Chief destroys by throwing a Nerf ball rigged with explosives at it. During a shootout with a couple of returning Republican Guards, Troy and Conrad are shot. Conrad dies, and Troy, suffering from a punctured lung, has a flutter valve placed in his chest by Archie to allow air to escape. Archie tells him that the valve will work for a few hours but Troy still needs proper medical treatment.

    Archie makes radio contact with Walter at base asking for transport, offering the drivers $100,000 each. He then orders that each of the Shi'a be given a bar of gold and the rest buried. Planning to help the Shi'a escape, they make their way to the Iranian border, heavily guarded by government forces. After reaching the border they are stopped by the American soldiers and arrested. Archie offers the rest of the gold to the other Americans in exchange for letting the refugees through.

    The film closes stating that all of the soldiers were cleared of their charges thanks to Adriana Cruz's reporting. Archie and Chief now work as military advisers in Hollywood, and Troy is the owner of a carpet store. The closing epilogue states that the stolen gold was returned to Kuwait, although the Kuwaitis reported some was missing.

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