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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

The Siege [Blu-ray]


(Edward Zwick, 1998)



Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: 20th Century Fox & Linda Orbst Productions

Video: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment



Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:55:58.868

Disc Size: 22,240,222,590 bytes

Feature Size: 20,706,367,488 bytes

Video Bitrate: 17.04 Mbps

Chapters: 30

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 9th, 2009



Aspect ratio: 2.4:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-2






DTS-HD Master Audio English 4299 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4299 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio French 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps



English SDH, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean, none



• Theatrical Trailers




The Movie: 7

Despite Jack Lemmon's riveting performance in The China Syndrome, that movie is destined to be remembered for its prescient warnings about nuclear reactor meltdowns.  I saw it just after it opened in the spring 1979, hours, it seemed, before - or after, it doesn't matter - the accident at Three Mile Island, but I clearly remember the gasps in the audience when the scientist said that a china syndrome meltdown would affect an area about the size of Pennsylvania!  Chernobyl followed seven years later.




I suspect that The Siege, which hasn't the benefit of Lemmon's emotional authority (or his character's) nor as coherent a script, will reap a similar fate.  When the movie came out in November of 1998, the World Trade Center had survived a near disastrous bombing five years earlier.  But, with its ultimate fate another three years off, critical opinion of the movie was nearly unanimous in its damning of its racist tone – explicit and implicit.  My suggestion is that you read a couple of these reviews (the ones by Roger Ebert HERE and Mike LaSalle HERE are representative) then watch – or re-watch the movie.  It's an interesting exercise, regardless of your politics or what you think of the film.


As it happened, my first experience with The Siege was last night, and I was fascinated with the movie as a political statement.  It wasn't even a reach for me to see the Annette Bening character as a metaphor for the way the U.S. sleeps with the "enemies" of our "enemies" only to be bombed to the point of non-existence (in a political sense) for our trouble.


I'll leave the question of racism to you, and dare you to try to keep 9-11 and subsequent events in the Mid-East separate from your critical evaluation of the movie as a film.


Image: 8/8  NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.  The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.


The changes in tint from scene to scene are no doubt intentional, but I'm less confident about the waxy appearance of Denzel and others in the opening reel or two, once we are situated in the Federal Bldg. Probably some DNR at work here, along with some occasional edge enhancement now and then, although the action is so pumped up I had to remind myself to be on the lookout for it.  Bit rates are low: averaging in the mid-teens.















Audio & Music: 8/7

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is busy, highly textured and dynamic – shall we say, bombastic – by turns.  There's a lot going on here: It's a city under attack: vans and buses exploding, copters circling, automatic weapons firing from all directions, and a few screeching tires – all of this is immersively captured in the surround mix with lots of bite and LFE, compliments of DTS HD-MA.




Operations: 5

Since there are no extra features and the menu is simplicity itself, we are left to discuss the exploitive mind-set of the promotional summaries on the back tone.  On the other hand, let's not.


Extras: 1

A few trailers and promos.


Recommendation: 7

I think we can agree that the resolution of the duel between Denzel and Bruce is wincing, but the movie does ask some good questions – I think they were good questions before 9-11, just as they are now.  As we see these questions debated now, they may feel heavy-handed, but ten years ago, no one was listening, not that The Siege was its best messenger.  Image and sound quality are both very good.  No extra features.  Fox.  Hmmm.


Leonard Norwitz
June 21st, 2009



About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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