The Kingdom

When Islamic terrorists attack United States citizens in Saudi Arabia, the FBI wants to dispatch an investigative team to track down the people responsible. Unfortunately, the Attorney General and the State Department are more worried about politics and diplomacy than justice, so the FBI takes matters into its own hands. Special Agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) and his three-man team circumvent the system and gain access to the crime scene only to find the local authorities stonewalling them at every turn.

Welcome to CSI: Saudi Arabia—just kidding. The Kingdom is very engaging with excellent pacing and great chemistry between the actors, but the screenplay is a little too tidy to be completely believable—much like CSI. But even with its flaws, it's action-packed and suspenseful.

First released on HD DVD with a VC-1 encode, this version sports a newly minted AVC presentation that improves upon the HD DVD in many areas. Detail is slightly sharper, backgrounds offer more detail, and the compression noise prevalent on the HD DVD release is absent here. The color palette is dry, befitting the desert landscape, and black levels are solid, delivering adequate shadow detail—given the source elements, it's hard to imagine this looking any better than it does.

The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is an improvement over the Dolby Digital track from the HD DVD. Bass response is much deeper and tighter, dialog sounds more natural, and gunfire has more impact. The surround speakers provide ample discrete effects, especially during the third act when the action is ratcheted up with an intense shootout and an edge-of-your-seat freeway chase.

Ported over from the HD DVD are the same supplements, which include U-Control functionality with PIP and three different " Mission Dossiers" that offer investigative notes, background information, 3D visualizations, and four different perspectives of the apartment-shootout scene. Other features include deleted scenes, an interactive timeline, a close look at the freeway sequence, a making-of featurette, and a commentary with director Peter Berg.

The Kingdom is a quality action film tackling security issues faced by American citizens in the Middle East. The ending is a bit far-fetched, but the presentation is a marked improvement over the HD DVD in both audio and video. Recommended.

Release Date: November 25, 2008

Movie: 8/10
Picture: 8/10
Sound: 9/10

Review System

Panasonic DMP-BD55

JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Onkyo Pro 85 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 Amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector