The Siege (Blu-ray)
Directed by Edward Zwick
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:11080pMPEG-2 codec
Running Time: 116 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
Subtitles: English, Cantonese, Spanish, others
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: June 9, 2009
Review Date: June 16, 2009
An engrossing first half followed by a haphazard, faintly ludicrous second half partially ruins the effectiveness of Edward Zwick’s thriller The Siege. Superb actors and an above average terrorist story could have made for a classic film, but sloppy scripting that veers off into poorly staged action and an anticlimactic ending spoils its ultimate effect.
A blue paint bomb blowing up inside a New York City bus is the prelude to a series of increasingly violent terrorist attacks on the Big Apple. A bus later blows up in Brooklyn, and the campaign of terror begins to make its bloody mark on the streets of New York. Anthony "Hub" Hubbard (Denzel Washington), the head of the Joint FBI/NYPD Terrorism Task Force, is the man charged with keeping the city safe from an array of threats that seem to grow more terrifying with every headline. Elise Kraft (Annette Bening) is a CIA operative, now undercover, with important sources in the Arab-American community and questionable ties to the suspects. The two form an extremely uneasy alliance as violence begins to escalate, and they realize that the terrorist cells are operating independently of one another. And there is always the threat of martial law being enforced, and for that, the government will bring in General William Devereaux (Bruce Willis), a take-no-prisoners commando who’s power hungry and eager for a chance to exercise it.
With such a strong opening forty-five minutes where the violence and the investigation into its perpetrators takes on a breathless quality that director Edward Zwick can summon on command, the real shame is that the script by Lawrence Wright, Menno Meyjes, and director Zwick degenerates so quickly into twaddle. The Army moves in and concentration camp-like detention centers spring up almost instantaneously. We’re told there may be four different cells working on these attacks (a Broadway theater and a school are the next venues on the hit parade), and then all of a sudden, there is a single cell remaining, all because they‘ve decided that‘s the case rather than offering the viewer any information that would show that to be the case. The enemy, faceless, identity-free Arabs, point to lazy writing and a lack of development of a strong antagonist. And with Washington and Bening’s characters fighting not only the Arabs but the increasingly out-of-control general of Bruce Willis, the action seems splintered and very unsatisfying, especially the way too-easy resolution.
Denzel Washington and Annette Bening have a prickly, off-kilter camaraderie that sustains interest throughout the film, and Bruce Willis is much better in the film’s first half suggesting his might rather than the later version of the character after he begins using it. Tony Shalhoub has some marvelous moments as Washington’s Arab-American partner whose outrage over his son being one of the Arabs rounded up by Willis’ zealous commander brings him to the breaking point. Sami Bouajila as Bening’s lover who may know more than he pretends makes an okay impression, and Mark Valley, Chip Zien, and John Rothman shine in smaller but pivotal roles.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the MPEG-2 codec. Color resolution is a major stumbling block with this transfer in many ways. Some color timing in the early going gives the image a slightly blue tint that throws off flesh tones as overly pink. Later, the tint goes away, but color takes on a plugged up, flat look. This may partially be due to the DNR which has been applied to the image. While waxy features aren’t always obvious, they are there occasionally, and there is also sometimes a slight flicker in the backgrounds along with some noticeable examples of edge enhancement. Sharpness at other times can be reasonably good. The film has been divided into 30 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is beautifully delivered in this transfer. All of the active, immersive split surrounds of a modern action picture are delivered here with good but not great expansiveness. Some nice LFE also rattles the room on several occasions.
The only bonus on this single layer Blu-ray is the theatrical trailer which runs for 2 ¼ minutes and is in 1080p.
There are additional 1080p trailers for Broken Arrow, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Edge, and Flight of the Phoenix.
A thriller with more possibilities for greatness than the actual execution delivered, The Siege makes only an average appearance in high definition here. A lack of worthwhile bonus features is also a noticeable disappointment with this release.