The Kingdom (HD DVD)

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really keep up with the news. I don’t watch CNN and I don’t even visit or any other site like that. Mind you, I don’t live in a cave but when it comes to matters of what’s happening overseas or politics, my mind goes elsewhere. What’s so intriguing about what’s going on these days, though, isn’t meant for Hollywood script writers to turn into movies, but like it or not it will happen. And with that we have “The Kingdom”, a movie literally ripped from the headlines of what’s been going on in Saudi Arabia (the HD DVD even has an interactive timeline listing the notable incidents in the area since the 1930’s). Saudi Arabia, for those who don’t know, is the richest country in the world. They control pretty much all of the oil for the world and back in the early 1970’s this effect was felt to most all Americans with the gas lines. It’s also noteworthy that 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 were of Saudi decent. Clearly there’s a lot going on in Saudi Arabia and “The Kingdom” gives us a glimpse into some of the issues that we as a country and a world are facing.

In the midst of a terrorist attack in a housing compound, several Americans are killed. The FBI is trying to piece together the pieces of the puzzle and sends an elite team of four men (and woman) over to Saudi Arabia to try and piece together a crime scene. Think of it as CSI: Saudi Arabia if you will. Led by determined commander Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx), the team tries their best to collect evidence with the restrictions imposed upon them by Saudi Col. Faris Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom). As the investigation gets deeper, the FBI team is able to manipulate a few things here and there, enough so that Faris is willing to bend the rules for them. Naturally this doesn’t sit too well with the Saudi’s who planned the attack and it’s only a matter of time before all hell breaks loose.

As a director Peter Berg has had his hits and misses, but his most recent effort here is among his better (if not his best) work. The ensemble cast includes a great performance by Jason Bateman (there’s talk of an Oscar nod for his supporting role), Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper and Jeremy Piven in one of his more dramatic turns. I doubt there’s a lot of fiction in the movie, though it is a scripted movie with fictitious names and faces; this is something that probably happens every day. What really struck me about “The Kingdom” is that is never gets too preachy. There’s an ending and it may or may not be a happy one, but it’s realistic and stays true to what would probably happen in the real world. I may not stay tuned to CNN all day long, but I can gleam enough from the papers to know that “The Kingdom” tells it like it is and regardless of our opinion on overseas, this is a must see.

Video: How does it look?

“The Kingdom” is presented in a great-looking 2.35:1 VC-1 HD transfer that leaves little to the imagination. The movie follows some of the other gritty war movie stereotypes in terms of how its shot. We get a very handheld feel to it, with most shots being moved around the frame here and there. Naturally most of the hues are of an earthy tone and feel, which gives the picture a lot of brown undertones. This does tend to wash out some of the faces, but not to the point where it feels overexposed. Detail, as expected, is very vivid, I can remember being able to count the number of bullet holes in the walls. As a new movie to the HD DVD format we can expect (and get) a great-looking transfer that delivers on all levels.

Audio: How does it sound?

I was a bit surprised to only find a Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack here as I would have thought this would have been a prime showcase for a TrueHD track. This isn’t the case and while the soundtrack isn’t poor, I felt it could have been a lot better. Dialogue is very warm and natural and for the amount of gunfire and explosions in the film, this could have been on par with “Saving Private Ryan”. As it stands, the film doesn’t sound bad but the LFE seemed to only kick in on a few occasions. Perhaps the filmmakers didn’t want to the soundtrack to overpower the message?

Supplements: What are the extras?

“The Kingdom” comes equipped with several extras as we start off with some deleted scenes. These were cut for timing and pacing, according to the director and it’s nice to have these included here. There are a few featurettes in “Creating the Kingdom” and “Constructing the Freeway Sequence” as we see how much thought and detail went into the film’s biggest scene. There’s the aforementioned interactive timeline and a commentary with Director Peter Berg as well. The disc also contains some exclusives to HD like a picture-in-picture experience while watching the movie and we also get to follow each character through the apartment sequence scene via a multi-angle feature. There are some web enabled features as well, but for the life of me I can’t get my HD DVD to connect to the internet.

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