While various changes for the theatrical release date of "THE KINGDOM" suggested possible problems with the film, it's a surprisingly effective, typically intelligent action/thriller. After a brutal terrorist attack occurs on a compound housing American families in Saudi Arabia, an elite unit of FBI investigators breaks rank with the State Department and travels to "The Kingdom," having been given a very brief time period to examine the attack site, examine evidence, and "help" the Saudis with their own investigation. The limitations set upon the team, made up of a stellar cast, including Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner, along with the threat of imminent harm to them by the terrorists still at loose, and anti-U.S. sympathizers all around them, all combine to set a gripping pace that never lets up. While "THE KINGDOM" is director Peter Berg's best film to date, it's still handicapped by his decision to utilize intentionally hand-held camerawork far too long, with a dizzying impact, just when clarity is needed. That said, Berg's direction is tight and the script is well written and thought-provoking, even though the decision to make a drastic change from the script's originally conceived ending makes one wish that it had at least been filmed for an "alternate" ending sequence offering on a supplementary section. The film's ending works well, as it is, but it does feel a little bit preachy, whereas the originally conceived ending offered a much less optimistic ending with an arguably more powerful, albeit devastating and realistic conclusion.
Another great idea, Berg deserves credit for is the opening credit sequence, wherein a chronology/timeline explains the various complexities of the US/Saudi relationship from the discovery of oil there, up through today. It's great for many reasons, but mostly for the kind of "stamp" on authenticity it lends to the film's following narrative and situations.
UNIVERSAL has provided the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio for this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 blu-ray release. While grain is evident in most scenes, it's only due to the intentionally gritty atmosphere design of the film, and actually works in its favor. Detail is flawless in every scene. Color levels vary in intensity, depending on the given scene, but even when pushed or subdued, they look terrific. The blacks are inky, providing flawless depth in even the darkest nighttime scenes. Virtually any chapter pulled up will reveal demonstrate "reference quality" jump-off-the-screen imagery to impress anyone questioning the power of blu-ray.
UNIVERSAL has provided a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. It's an aggressive mix, creating an immediate immersive environment, that seldom lets up, yet never uncomfortably overwhelms the listener. The lossless mix also showcases tremendous clarity throughout, evident in "quieter" moments, wherein subtle ambient effects add greatly to the dramatic impact. Music is well balanced throughout, although some may have preferred if it had been given more prominence than it has been, particularly since it's from Danny Elfman.
Two great featurettes are included, the best one, examining how a kidnapping sequence was created, along with deleted scenes and an extremely engaging commentary with Peter Berg. All of the extras are offered in full HD! UNIVERSAL offers their "U-Control" option, originally created for HD-DVD, and it's a fun and great option, allowing the user to have an unusual amount of control over scenes and selection of favorite moments.