Michael Collins

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Running Time 127 minutes Commentary Tracks None
RSDL/Flipper No/Yes (101.16) Other Extras Cast/Crew Biographies
Production Notes
Film Flash
Region 4    
Distributor Warner Brothers    
RRP $29.95    

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1    
Macrovision Yes    
Subtitles English 
English for the Hearing Impaired

Plot Synopsis

    After the debacle that was The Specialist (my last review), I was almost dreading watching Michael Collins. Fortunately, it is a real humdinger of a movie and a magnificent DVD which has restored my faith in Warner Brothers. Michael Collins is the more-or-less historically accurate story of Michael Collins, a political activist in Ireland during the early part of this century. I won't go into the politics of Ireland, but suffice it to say that this movie, in my opinion, placed itself firmly in the middle of the debate about Irish independence. The movie is not pro- or anti-IRA, but merely presents the historical facts as they apparently occurred.

    The movie opens in Dublin 1916, with the Easter Uprising, an uprising involving a number of Irish men against much better equipped and trained British troops. Needless to say, the Uprising is quelled and the leaders are shot by firing squad. Other participants in the uprising, most notably Michael Collins (Liam Neeson) are jailed. When Michael is released, he vows to continue the fight against the British, but using guerrilla tactics rather than traditional war tactics. This does not sit well with Eamon de Valera (Alan Rickman), the nominal president of the Irish Republic. Michael sets about destroying the British intelligence network by killing informants. De Valera goes to America in an attempt to have the American president recognize the Irish Republic.

    Meanwhile, a team of elite British intelligence agents is brought into Ireland. They are killed over the course of one night on Bloody Sunday. The British retaliate. De Valera returns from America, having failed to meet with the American president, and orders a traditional raid on a British stronghold - this results in a massacre of the IRA's troops. It also results in a truce being called by the British and Michael Collins is sent to England to hammer out the terms of a truce, creating an Irish Free State in Southern Ireland and a loyal British colony in Northern Ireland. This proposal is overwhelmingly accepted by the Irish people, but rejected by de Valera and his supporters. A civil war ensues, and Michael Collins is shot dead in somewhat mysterious circumstances.

    The brief plot description above cannot do justice to this complex story. There are many other events which occur, all in rapid succession. This is a very well scripted movie.

Transfer Quality


    This is another absolutely stunning video transfer. There are virtually no faults with the transfer except for a few minor issues.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The movie was absolutely razor sharp at all times. Shadow detail was truly superb with brilliant shadow detail and not a trace of noise. The clarity of the lower lit scenes is superb. A lot of this movie is shot in hard blue lighting, and these scenes always comes across as crystal clear.

    The colour was perfectly rendered throughout the transfer. The colour varies from hard blue night-type scenes, to vibrant full colour outdoor scenes, to vibrant indoor scenes. They are all rendered perfectly with never a trace of bleeding or loss of clarity.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen. Film-to-video artefacts consisted only of minor aliasing artefacts here and there. The most noticeable example of this is the wood pile in the background between 10:48 and 11:02 which shimmers slightly. Film artefacts were very few and far between - this transfer was taken from a very clean interpositive indeed.

    This DVD is a flipper. The side change occurs at 101.16, at the end of chapter 39. An animated picture of a hand turning over a disc is displayed, and then the disc returns to the Main Menu. The side change occurs during quite a dramatic moment in the movie, and significantly disrupts the flow of the movie. The chapters on side B start again at Chapter 1 rather than being numbered as Chapter 40 onwards. RSDL formatting would have been much preferred. However, the Region 1 version of this title is also a flipper, so we are not alone in this.


    There is only one audio track on this DVD, English Dolby Digital 5.1.

    Dialogue was always completely clear and intelligible, even during scenes with high ambient noise. This soundtrack is an excellent example of how to make dialogue intelligible even in the most trying of circumstances.

    The music, composed by Elliot Goldenthal, is wonderful, ranging from lush orchestral sounds to percussive to traditional Irish music. It superbly complemented the on-screen drama.

     The surround channels were used frequently during the movie to create an ambient soundfield, drawing you into the movie. They were used with superb effect during the battle sequences, drawing you into the scene and never once attracting attention to themselves. Unlike some other movies, there was no point during this DVD where you could localize sounds to a specific speaker. Rather than that, the surrounds enveloped you. There appeared to be only sparing use of split surrounds, but this in no way detracted from a truly superb soundtrack.

    The .1 channel was used with enormous effect during battle sequences and during music. It integrated superbly with the rest of the soundtrack.

    Whilst this soundtrack is not your typical action movie soundtrack, it succeeds magnificently in creating an enveloping soundtrack which fully immerses you in the film. It is superbly integrated. This soundtrack is worthy of being described as a reference quality soundtrack.


    The theatrical trailer is present on this DVD, presented in a 1.85:1 16x9 enhanced format with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack which was surround encoded.

    A 51-minute documentary on the movie is present on Side B. This is presented at a 1.78:1 ratio, non 16x9 enhanced with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack which appeared to be surround encoded. This gives additional historical perspective on Michael Collins, and contains a mix of contemporary footage, historical footage and clips from the movie. Generally, this is very clear, except for some MPEG artefacts at 28:06 and 28:14 during some particularly bad historical footage. There is also a significant moiré effect during a pan out from a picture of Michael Collins' patron in America. This documentary is only present on Side B of this disc, and only accessible from the menu on Side B of the disc. Otherwise, all extras are present on both sides of the disc.

    The other extras on this DVD are still frames for the cast and crew biographies and still framed production notes. The production notes are in fact quite interesting in their own right.


    Michael Collins is a superb movie in every aspect. It is well written, well acted, well filmed, and the soundtrack is superb. It is a very thought-provoking movie, and I certainly learnt a thing or two about Irish history from this film. The acting is excellent, and the characters are well-developed allowing you to empathize with them. The only minor complaint I have is that Julia Roberts once again shows she can only play Julia Roberts, but fortunately she is generally overshadowed on screen by Liam Neeson and Aidan Quinn.

    The video quality is superb. The only minor criticism I have is that minor aliasing is present in some scenes. It is a flipper, which may be an issue for some people. Certainly, the break comes at a bad time, though I don't think that there could be any place in this film where a break would be acceptable. RSDL formatting would have been preferred enormously.

    The audio quality is magnificent. The soundtrack is spot on in every way and can truly be described as an enveloping soundfield.

Ratings (out of 5)


Michael Demtschyna
29th October 1998

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer