Three Kings (Blu-ray)
When THREE KINGS first came out, I was impressed by it, but I balked when people considered it a war movie above anything else. A comedy? At times. A drama? Yeah, it had dramatic elements. An action movie? Sure, why not? But when I think of “war movies”, I think of ‘Band of Brothers’ type stuff where soldiers are fighting bad guys and bonding with each other. I don’t think of careless officers and rogue soldiers out to get some extra cash. But since this film came out, I’ve gone in and out of the military and we’ve had a couple of wars, so needless to say, my opinion has changed.
I think this is a perfect representation of today’s “war” movie. Gone are the days of World War I and II, where the majority of soldiers enlisted/commissioned for the greater good. Nowadays, most soldiers enlist to pay for college or to get out of their small town or to find a job in an otherwise bleak economy. But not only have our soldiers changed, but the wars we face today are much more complicated and convoluted than the wars our grandfathers faced. A war movie today is just as likely to deal with soldiers being bored than it is to deal with soldiers actually fighting. The events in THREE KINGS were made possible because the war was over almost before it began and there wasn’t anything to do. Sam Mendes even made a whole movie out of bored soldiers in JARHEAD.
But what makes THREE KINGS so great is the direction of David O. Russell and the performance of George Clooney. How fitting that the two had a famous fist fight on the set of the movie and never really got along. But Russell added a unique vision to the movie which added an intensity to the film that otherwise wouldn’t have been there had they told the movie in a standard fashion. But even more impressive than the cool style is Russell’s ability to control the intensity. Everything was deliberate and paced efficiently to the point that the effect of each scene was maximized. Again, a less competent director could have ruined the film.
Clooney’s performance as Major Gates carries the film and gives the audience an anti-hero that we root for. As great as Clooney is, special notice has to be given to Mark Wahlberg, who pulls off an incredible scene where he calls his wife while being held captive. It was intense, funny and touching all at the same time, which can be said for most of this film. But their performances spark a level of humanity in the soldiers that was needed in order to keep the audience involved with what they were doing. After all, it’s hard to feel too much sympathy for four guys trying to steal someone else’s gold (which, of course, they later realized).
If it has been a while since you caught THREE KINGS, I highly recommend picking it up again o Blu-ray. It’s a well paced, humorous and thought-provoking film that takes the audience on a wild ride. It’s definitely not your parents’ war movie, but it speaks to a generation of soldiers that feel lost and does it in a way that’s entertaining.
Video: The video is grainy, but that’s the way Russell shot it and one of the things that made the film so famous. So kudos to Warner Brothers for preserving the theatrical representation of the film no this Blu-ray.
Audio: The audio was fine.
Commentary with David O. Russell: Russell gives a great commentary and provides insight into the film that a lot of directors gloss over. he keeps the commentary rolling and he’s a blast to listen to.
Commentary with Charles Roven and Edward L. McDonnell: Producer commentaries are usually boring since they don’t typically have the passion for the film that the director or actors have, but these guys give a decent commentary track.
It should be noted that neither commentary track mentions the fight between Clooney and Russell at all. I think audiences would have liked to hear about that and gotten a detailed, firsthand account of what really happened.
On Set with Catherine Hardwicke (10:14): The production designer takes us through the various filming locations and talks little about what went into creating them and how she found them. This is okay, but probably should have been a part of a larger featurette.
David O. Russell’s Video Journal (13:35): This was a rundown of what Russell went through outside of shooting the film. I think the work that goes into making a movie outside of what the actors do on set is at times more interesting, so it was cool to see a glimpse of Russell at work.
The Cinematography of Three Kings (7:07): I wanted a little more technical detail on just how they made the film look like it did, but Newton Thomas Sigel takes us through some of the tricks and some of the logic for how they shot the film.
Under the Bunker (21:32): This wasn’t quite a fluff piece, but it does have a typical, making-of fell to it. It provides an overview of the film, focusing on locations, training and the plot. Nothing too revealing here.