|Year Released||1998||Commentary Tracks||None|
|Running Time||162:25 minutes||Other Extras||None|
Warner Home Video
Kristin Scott Thomas
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||No||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Dolby Digital||5.1|
|16x9 Enhancement||Yes||Soundtrack Languages||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)|
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 and 2.35:1||
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes|
That is not to say that the plot is completely without merit, rather that they made the damn thing far too long. Grace MacLean (Scarlett Johansson) suffers a terrible riding accident that kills her best friend, badly injures her horse Pilgrim and results in her losing her right leg below the knee. Rather then face the prospect of putting Pilgrim down, her magazine editor mother Annie MacLean (Kirstin Scott Thomas) opts to have the horse saved, with dire consequences as the horse becomes unmanageable and Grace rejects it the first time she sees it after the accident. In an effort to save her daughter, Annie tracks down Tom Booker (Robert Redford) who is a Whisperer - a person who has the gift to almost communicate with a horse. After he rejects her offer to come to New York, and not exactly with the best wishes of husband Robert (Sam Neill), Annie loads a reluctant horse and a reluctant daughter into the car and trailer for a hike all the way to Montana to convince Tom to save the horse - and her daughter. Along the way to saving both, Annie of course falls in love with Tom.
Whilst there is nothing to really complain about in the performances, Robert Redford as director adopted a painfully slow pace in the film with lots of quite superfluous "atmosphere" shots. The result is that this seems to go nowhere very slowly indeed and after twenty minutes I was already starting to check the "how much longer to go" display counter. About the only redeeming feature of the soporific pace is the absolutely gorgeous shots of the Montana countryside - definitely one of the most beautiful places in the United States. Indeed, if I were to try and describe the film, I think it would be best described as an "elevator film" - as in "elevator music", background vision that you really do not take too much notice of.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The theatrical release started at 1.85:1 for the New York scenes before switching to 2.35:1 for the Montana scenes, so some of this impact is lost.
The transfer is woefully inconsistent, but in general is quite soft in focus, not especially sharp, and quite poorly defined at times. At times the background was terribly out of focus whilst the foreground was also quite softly focused, making this for me very difficult to watch. This may have been what Robert Redford intended, but it leaves me very cold indeed. Shadow detail is acceptable.
The colours were uniformly rendered, but I felt that they could have been perhaps a little more vibrant. There is certainly no problem with over saturation here. Some of the scenery is quite magnificent and comes up extremely well in the transfer.
There were no MPEG artefacts noted. Video artefacts comprised some minor aliasing, especially earlier on in the film noted. Film artefacts were a bit of a problem, which is disappointing in such a recent film, although they were not especially especially distracting.
The packaging claims subtitles in English, Croatian, Greek and Portuguese, but these are not present on the disc.
Flipper alert, flipper alert. Yes, this is one of those dreaded flipper discs, with the completely unacceptable turnover coming at 83:10. Mind you, in this instance it did give me a chance to wake up! No matter how you try to rationalize this, there is no excuse for a dual sided format when dual layer formats are available.
There is only an English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track on the DVD, the French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack claimed on the packaging is not present.
The dialogue was clear and reasonably easy to understand at all times.
Audio sync did not appear to be a problem with the transfer at all.
The musical score comes from Thomas Newman and a suitably atmospheric score it is too. The fact that this just reinforces the soporific nature of the film should not be held against it. It was a nicely reserved score that never drew attention to itself, which is probably the essence of a fine film score.
This is not an especially well detailed 5.1 soundtrack and there really should have been a lot more detail, especially out of the rear channels at times. For most of the film though, it was a pleasing enough soundscape, even though you never really felt a part of it.
There was minimal use made of the bass channel.
The overall video quality is acceptable but nothing more.
The overall audio quality is acceptable.
What is an extra?
© Ian Morris
7th October 1999
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|