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Three Kings (Blu-ray Review)

1999 was a great year for movies!  On one side of the spectrum you had garbage like Star Wars: Episode I and on the other side of the spectrum you had great films like Three Kings which were moderate budgeted made films that made a moderate return on their investment.  Three Kings was also one of the first Warner Bros DVDs to have tons of extras for viewers to dissect.  Three Kings was also famous for igniting alleged spats onset, behind the scenes, and for its sheer bravado in film-making.  Lots of cutting edge, and antiquated techniques were used to bring this tale of the first Gulf War to life.  Warner Bros has finally brought this great film to the Blu-ray format and it is sure to please the many fans out there!

Film 

After a routine shooting that should not have happened due to the confusion of the Rules of Engagement, a map is found on a prisoner, in the unlikeliest of places, which sets off a trigger of events.  Rumor has it that this map contains detailed instructions on where Saddam Hussein has stashed his gold.  Major Archie Gates (George Clooney), leads his team of specialists, Troy Barlow (Mark Wahlberg), Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze), and Chief Elgin  (Ice Cube) into the madness of trying to recover the gold before anyone notices.  That’s where the fun begins, because it’s never as easy as it seems.

President Bush has declared a cease fire which which gives the Americans total authority to raid villages without the threat of violence.  Once the team locate the missing gold, among other plundered goods, it’s time to vacate the premises.  This is were it all goes down hill. People get killed, hostages are taken, and things blow up.

That superficial description I just gave you is the basic story that was given to the public, so they could come to theaters and support the film.  Three Kings was marketed as a standard war film.  From the opening shot, you, the viewer, will see that Three Kings has much more to offer.  Everything works. The casting, the set pieces, the story, all of it.  Keep in mind that all of the leads, up to this point, had not done very much.  I don’t even think Spike Jonze had even acted before, and his character was very important.  That’s another footnote into the production history.  Casting a director as an actor who had never acted before.  One could see how much of a gamble the film was and how much responsibility was given to the main cast to keep the film together.

Three Kings is very avante-garde in that some of the more violent scenes may seem as if they were trivializing war, but that’s the whole point.  The opening scene let’s you in on what the tone of the film will be.

Troy Barlow: Are we shooting?

Soldier: What?

Troy Barlow: Are we shooting people or what?

Soldier: Are we shooting?

Troy Barlow: That’s what I’m asking you!

Soldier: What’s the answer?

Troy Barlow: I don’t know the answer! That’s what I’m trying to find out!

At first sight, that scene plays out hilariously, but what follows is not funny.  That’s the way Three Kings is set up.  Certain scenes of action, exposition, are played for laughs, and then you get hit by a truck.

For those that are curious or have never seen the film before, there’s no better way to experience Three Kings than on the Blu-ray format!

Video 

Three Kings is presented in 1080p High Definition 16X9 2.40:1.  The video is a winner.  Some may not think that upon closer examination, but that’s what makes this such a special release.  Back in 1999 when the film was made, director David O.Russell and Cinematographer Newton Thomas Siegel shot the film on Ektachrome slide photography stock, and used the bleach bypass process.  Think of the film Seven. The color in certain scenes were bleached out for effect.  It wasn’t completely shot in that style, but you’ll notice the opening was.  The aesthetic is unreal and that’s what makes the film look so cool.  There will be shots of a metallic blue sky, but the sand and dirt will have a muted gray tone to it.  It’s as if the filmmakers were using color (or lack of) to tell the story and in some scenes as a weapon.

Audio 

Three Kings is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The soundtrack to Three Kings rocks.  The first thing that I noticed was how clean and crisp the sound came through my speakers.  There are no hints of distortion or clipping.  As for the LFE (bass) goes, it is natural in the sense that whoever mixed the audio didn’t go crazy and make everything sound low.  The subwoofer gets a workout only when true LFE (low frequency effects) are detected.  I was very pleased with the soundscape on Three Kings.

Special Features 

I should give the special features section a lower score, because they’re standard edition ports from the old DVD, but I won’t, because I always liked them.  In rewatching these special features, lots of things have happened since 1999.

  • Additional Scenes – Your standard set of deleted scenes which were mostly trimmed for pacing and for being too redundant. You can watch them as is or with an optional David O. Russell commentary track.
  • 2 Commentaries: One by Writer/Director David O. Russell, the Other by Producers Charles Roven and Edward L. McDonnell – These are some very good commentary tracks and do shed light on the production of Three Kings going back even further than the film itself.  It did take a long time to get Three Kings to the big screen.  Neither of these commentaries are annoying or self-serving.  Good stuff.
  • Featurette Under the Bunker: On the Set of Three Kings – Here’s your standard fly on the wall making-of-featurette which is much better than your standard sugar coated electronic press kit. It is what it is.
  • David O. Russell’s Three Kings Video Journal – This is an actual fly on the wall video journal filmed by David O.Russell with his trusted video camera during some of the meetings with potential actors and with producers, etc… George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Spike Jonze, and Ice Cube are featured.  If you get the chance, check out Mark Wahlberg in this, because he comes off as a bit of a dick.  Other than that, this was a very cool video journal.
  • An Intimate Look Inside the Acting Process with Ice Cube – This is one of my favorite special features on this disc.  The actor-thespian Ice Cube gives the outsiders an inside look at what it takes to turn on the emotions of a such an intense role in Three Kings. Please keep in mind that this video is directed by Spike Jonze.
  • Tour of Iraqi Village Set with Production Designer Cathrine Hardwicke – Before she became the talk of the town for being the director of the first Twilight film Catherine Hardwicke was a production designer.  She’s so cool and funny, but a bit on the loopy side.  I think it’s her enthusiasm.  She loves her work, so that may have something to do with it.  I like people who’s enthusiasm for their craft shine through.
  • Interview with Director of Photography Newton Thomas Siegel – Here’s my other favorite special feature, but it’s not really an interview.  It’s more of a voice over tour of the Cinematography process used on Three Kings. This featurette will give tons more information on that “bleaching” technique we talked about earlier in the review.  Highly recommended!

Final Thoughts 

What’s to say that hasn’t already been said?  Three Kings is part satire, social commentary, war movie, action movie, drama and a lot of other verbs and adjectives.  Three Kings on Blu-ray looks and sounds great and is a definite buy!

*

Bring home Three Kings on Blu-ray!

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

5 Responses to “Three Kings (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    This is a great film! I’m glad it looks great on Blu-ray! My copy will be here next week!

    Better watch your Star Wars’ comments. Those are fighting words with Sean. You did not even like Darth Maul?

  2. Gerard Iribe

    Yeah, this is a great near reference disc. Darth Maul was cool, but was in the film for less than 5 minutes, so I don’t care.

    Back on topic, it was great re-visiting the film since I had not seen it in several years.

  3. Aaron Neuwirth

    I’ve worn out my DVD of this because Three Kings is one of my favorite movies. I’ll be happy to pick this up next week.

    (I don’t hate the prequels :))

  4. Brian White

    I’m looking forward to checking this out next week! It was one of my favorite DVDs back in the days.

  5. Sean Ferguson

    Good review but The Phantom Menace was not garbage. It wasn’t as good as the original trilogy but it was never really meant to be like those. It had weak parts but there was also some really good parts. Anyway, I really like this movie and I will eventually replace my DVD version of it with this new Blu-ray.