Universal // 2007 // 111 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // December 3rd, 2008
Trust no one.
Peter Berg's The Kingdom is one of many recent flicks tackling the issues of international conflict and the war on terrorism. While it's entertaining, the film doesn't quite deliver the goods in terms of storytelling. It's unfortunate, really, because the movie both looks and sounds superb in high definition.
The Kingdom kicks off with a bunch of terrorists blowing up parts of an American housing compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Although no one but the local police is allowed to examine the crime scene, FBI Special Agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx, Ray) quickly gathers a team of expert investigators and negotiates a secret trip to Saudi Arabia to figure out what really happened and who is responsible for the attack.
Upon their arrival, however, Fleury and Co. collide with stubborn Saudi authorities who are unwilling to let the Americans interfere with their local work. With time running out and Washington pressing for Fleury's return back home, the FBI agents try their best to earn the trust of Saudi Colonel Al-Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom), a man with connections who may be able to help them take an active role in the tricky investigation.
The first 10 minutes of The Kingdom are utterly exciting. The film kicks off with a stylish timeline offering viewers a quick look at the history of Saudi Arabia and its relationship with the United States, followed by the powerful terrorist attack on the housing compound. With the main intrigue all set up, we now eagerly wait for the main story line to kick off. Unfortunately, what we get to witness for the next hour or so is not as thrilling as expected.
One of the main problems I have with this movie is Matthew Michael Carnahan's rather thin script, which failed to leave a strong enough impression on me. Most of the film's first part focuses on the FBI's struggle to properly investigate the bombing site. While it's not necessarily boring to watch, there's just not as much to the story as you may think at first. Truth be told, Fleury and his team work really hard to put the pieces of this bloody puzzle together, but as it turns out, their lengthy investigation doesn't really lead them anywhere.
Then all of a sudden, the plot takes a drastic turn and The Kingdom switches to 100 percent explosive action, which dominates the entire second part without any particular ties to the preceding hour, except for the bad guys, of course. From dazzling pursuits on an interstate to a wild shootout in an apartment complex, this final battle best resembles a gunfight straight out of Black Hawk Down, with the protagonists literally attempting to take out an entire army of terrorists. It may seem a little unrealistic, but it sure is quite entertaining to watch.
Although the attempted character development is not deep enough for my taste, the cast members do their best with their available roles. Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, and Jason Bateman make a fun team, and they all bring along enough humor for at least a couple of smiles. Acting honors, however, go to Ashraf Barhom, who delivers an utterly authentic performance as Al Ghazi, the FBI's closest ally in Saudi Arabia.
Considering the film was produced by Michael Mann, it's obvious that it boasts a fine look. I'll even go as far and admit Berg's direction is top notch. If you really love The Kingdom or haven't seen it yet but want to, I do suggest investing into the Blu-ray edition. The picture quality is stellar, and while a couple of darker scenes look a bit grainy still, the 2.35:1 non-anamorphic transfer is undoubtedly a feast for the eyes. Especially the film's action sequences look fantastic in high-def. Luckily, the sound transfer works just as great, with dialogue, score, and effects balanced fairly well. From a technical point of view, this disc is quite a solid product.
Although the Blu-ray edition has a bunch of interactive U-Control features, you won't find any new special features on this disc. Still, that doesn't mean they're not worth the upgrade, because the sharpness of the image and great sound quality alone make it a solid viewing experience. Besides several deleted scenes, the bonus material also includes "History of the Kingdom," an interactive timeline with plenty of information about Saudi Arabia and its connections with the United States. It won't really tell you anything about the making of the movie, but it's a fun history lesson that will bring you up to speed.
Also included is "Creating the Kingdom," an eight-part documentary that covers pretty much everything you want to know about the production of The Kingdom. From developing the original idea for the film to picking locations, building sets or putting together the cast, this 35-minute piece touches on plenty of behind-the-scenes aspects. Fun to watch is also "Constructing the Freeway Sequence," a thrilling 18-minute featurette about the stunt people's work on film's explosive interstate pursuit. Rounding out the special features is Berg's interesting commentary, during which he guides viewers through the scenes of the film, adding valuable info about the challenging production.
And for interactive viewers, the disc's U-Control features lets you bookmark certain scenes and chat on BD-Live via a suitable Internet connection. Other features include a mission dossier, which lets you pull up investigative notes during the movie. If that's not enough, the picture in picture function lets viewers explore extra behind-the-scenes footage while they're watching the feature film.
In terms of picture and sound qualities, I highly recommend this Blu-ray edition of The Kingdom. It's a bit unfortunate we don't get to see any new extra features, but luckily enough, those on the disc are quite interesting to explore. If you enjoy this film, you'll love this DVD.
The movie is guilty of disappointing, but the Blu-ray disc is free to go.
Review content copyright © 2008 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Audio Commentary
* Deleted Scenes
* Interactive Timeline
* "Creating the Kingdom"
* Constructing the Freeway Sequence
* Official Site