The Kingdom—Universal (HD DVD)
It is easy for great films to get passed over when they dwell on unpopular subjects. Such is the case with The Kingdom, an exceptional action thriller that has some unsettling political messages. The film follows a FBI team into the kingdom of Saudi Arabia after a bombing takes place in an America oil worker's compound. Things get out of hand though once the team gets on the ground. Director Peter Berg and producer Michael Mann deliver an intense political thriller that reminds me a lot of Mann's directorial efforts in intensity and production. There is a constant sense of tension through most of the film that escalates near the end to almost unsettling levels. The photography is also classic Mann style with tight angles and great character coverage. Despite not being that popular at the box office I really enjoyed this one and would recommend it to any political action fan.
Universal has delivered an exceptional high definition transfer on this one rivaling some of their best titles to date. Fine detail is superb throughout and the sense of depth and dimension is incredible at times. Contrast levels have been boosted significantly and colors are slightly oversaturated, which seems to be a popular filming style nowadays. Fine film grain is preserved nicely and I never saw anything resembling compression issues or print damage. A reference video transfer.
Unfortunately Universal has opted to only include a Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack on this one although at a healthy 1.5mbps and at full 24/48 resolution. Make no mistake; this is a demanding mix with extensive use of the surround soundstage and the lower end of the audible sound field. Bass extension is deep and the action scenes in this film take full advantage of it with even some nice infrasonic effects. The gunfight at the end of the film is one of the best I've seen on film and delivers rich dynamics and an engrossing sound field that makes it even more unsettling to watch. The dialogue of the film is balanced nicely in the mix, but I did notice some slight strain from time to time.
Universal has given this one the full special edition treatment. Universal's "U-Control" interactive feature is included with picture in picture interviews and production snippets. There are also facts and insights into the area and themes of the film. The best part was the multiple angles feature which allows you to watch the final shootout from four different perspectives. Deleted scenes are included in full HD along with some production features, interviews and a feature commentary with the director.
The Kingdom is one of the better HD release I've had the pleasure of watching lately and the outstanding A/V presentation make it an easy one to recommend. Fans of Peter Berg's and Michael Mann's films would be remiss not to catch this one.