STUDIO: Universal Studios
MSRP: $29.98
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
•    Deleted Scenes
•    “The History of the Kingdom” – Interactive Timeline
•    Character by Character: The Apartment Shoot Out
•    Constructing The Freeway Sequence
•    Creating The Kingdom

The Pitch

“Oil makes people do the darnedest things.”

The Humans

Jaime Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman, Jeremy Piven, Ashraf Barhorn and Tim McGraw

The Nutshell

The Kingdom is a not-so complex look at the new American situation in the Middle East. The general audience gets a basic rundown of the States’ dealings with the House of Saud from the early half of the 20th century to the present day. This leads into a rather intense segment where a bunch of radical Muslims attack a housing community outside of an oil field. The FBI wants to send a team into the area to investigate the crime, but the State Department judicially cockblocks them. Some political maneuvering is thrown into play, and then we meet our cast of characters.

Suddenly, the Middle East got a lot less fugly.

The Lowdown

The Kingdom is an interesting film that started life as a Michael Mann project. Mann got pulled away by other projects and the film found itself in the capable hands of up-and-coming director/actor Peter Berg. Berg chose to balance the entertaining aspects of anti-espionage action with the real world dynamic of socio-political conflict. Berg wisely keeps away from trying to offer a message in the film, as he knows what people need and want to see. This kind of economic filmmaking shows a burgeoning voice in the film world.

The film begins in earnest when a four-man crew gets dispatched quickly from Washington, D.C. to Riyadh. Upon arriving at the Saudi airport, they find two government agents being carried out of the facility in coffins. The sense of danger is established clearly, but the culture clash provides a new aspect to the action at hand. When you can’t negotiate or ask for help, a criminal investigation falls into shambles. The team catches a break with Colonel Al Ghazi who tries to bridge the gap between the Saudi State Police and the FBI team. But, when certain elements of the police force are working with religious zealots to overthrow Western interests, you never know who’s exactly on your side.

Yes, Annyong really does mean Hello.

Peter Berg continues to impress with The Kingdom, as he grows with each massive action set piece. Watching the Freeway Sequence shows an eye for design that few modern directors can match. The editing choices from the shoot-out that led up to the Freeway explosion and the build to the finale is amazingly intense. Especially in a year where we saw Roderick Jaynes redefine what amazing editing can do to create tension in a film. 2007 has been a year where the technical achievements in American cinema have left me with my jaw on the floor and this film is no exception.

The film’s action scenes are nothing short of breathtaking. But, the honesty behind them is what sells each set piece and the overall narrative. Foxx, Bateman, Garner, Cooper and Barhorn sell each character as unique individual who goes about their duty with their individual style. This added detail makes you warm to the Americans and their Saudi police aide. But, it’s also been brought up as a point of criticism.

Nothing funny here. I’m just admiring the cinematography.

Some people have taken issue with The Kingdom, as they’ve chose to call it propaganda. A work designed by Americans to show off a controlled Muslim threat that can be stopped by a few G-Men with the slightest bit of organization. While we don’t have the time in the film to examine the problem from all angles, we get enough time not to take such a negative view of the film’s central mission. It’s a brutal world with no easy answers. The Kingdom places a bit of action fantasy into the mix and strives for something that all films should achieve. It strives to be entertaining and a little informative.
The Package

The Kingdom comes to DVD with one of the cleanest anamorphic standard definition transfers that I saw in 2007. Skin tones and detail look great, as there is no digital noise between sharp action in the background and foreground. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track is impressive and carried the mix through the entire Home Theater sound stage. It’s the first time in a few weeks that my rear speakers got a workout and they did fantastic. What surprised me with the mix was how much of the score was pushed to the subwoofer. Those few moments of boost helped alleviate those final twenty minutes to a near-classic level.

No, Mr. Anderson. Alias isn’t going to go to Lost Island and fight The Smoke Monster. Quit writing these damn letters and sending this filthy, filthy pictures.

The extras are plentiful for a one disc release and they do the job. The eleven minutes of deleted scenes allow for scene expansion and extension without recycling the film’s droppings. Out of all the special features the only ones that I would deem to be essential viewing are the Interactive Timeline and the Character by Character breakdown of the Apartment Shoot Out. The level of detail that is added to the breakdown helps add clarity to the tricky set piece that dominated the second half of the finale. It’s such a boon that I would like to see other action films include it in their supplementals.

The interactive timeline also provides a further historical look into the root causes of the current standoff in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Middle East. You only get a bare taste of the matter in the high concept opening credits. Sure, you should be getting your Middle Eastern political history from a DVD, but what little information that’s on the disc is correct and more than you’ll see on the nightly news. That says a lot about the Mainstream Media, but chastising the MSM isn’t what I’m here to do. What I want to do is tell you that this film is amazing and worth a purchase. That is unless you’ve got an HD-DVD player. If that’s the case, make the upgrade. There’s bound to be a fire sale somewhere.

Chris Cooper – Agent of A.A.R.P.

9.2 out of 10