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|Category||Action||Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer 1 (1.85:1 (non-16x9), Dolby Digital 2.0)
Theatrical Trailer 2 (1.33:1, Dolby Digital 2.0)
Featurette - From The Cutting Room Floor (3:03)
Featurette - Stunt Footage (5:36)
|Running Time||118:41 Minutes|
|Start Up||Language Selection then Menu|
Universal Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Auto Pan & Scan||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The film begins at Kartaly Missile Base in Chelyabinsk, Russia. As the stationed unit loads a ten-warhead device onto their train, one young soldier complains that he didn't join the army simply so that he could participate in dismantling it for the Americans. After that, we are treated to some amazing photography that makes it clear just how much image we miss out on when we stoop to viewing films like these on the Very Hazy System. The train travels along a route through the rural environments of Russia before a second train catches up with it, and a group of terrorists proceed to hijack the military engine. Naturally, they steal one nuclear device while setting another to explode before sending the military transport on a separate route, where it crashes into a passenger train. With the terrorists hiding in a tunnel under a mountain, the weapon they left on the military transport soon detonates, frying numerous innocent passengers and a nearby farm from which view we get to see the expanding mushroom cloud.
As the Russian military go into overdrive, trying to cover up the fact that they have lost a nuclear weapon to a group of thieves, two highly ranked agents of the American military are called upon to investigate what happened to the nuclear device. Doctor Julia Kelly (Nicole Kidman) is a nuclear scientist who merely wants to stop the thieves and retrieve the missing nuclear weapon. She is assigned Colonel Thomas Devoe (George Clooney), a reckless officer with a violent manner of dealing with everyday negotiation, as her military liaison. As the nuclear weapon changes hands through several unmemorable terrorists, it eventually comes into the possession of Dusan Gavrich (Marcel Iures), who has a rather interesting point to make with the United Nations and those who are attempting to enforce peace in the warring nations that used to make up Yugoslavia.
It's a simple plot, and the characters barely develop past their cosmetic facades, but the film works a lot better than most of what the Bond franchise has come up with in the past twenty years. Perhaps Broccoli productions should employ Michael Schiffer to write their future scripts, as the results cannot possibly be any worse than those we saw in Tomorrow Never Dies. The film is certainly a lot more entertaining than the 5.8 out of ten average it has earned on the Internet Movie Database would imply, and I heartily recommend it to anyone with a strong taste for the action genre.
The transfer is exceptionally sharp, with plenty of clearly focused details on display for the viewer's enjoyment (if they already own a DVD Video player) or jaw-dropping amazement (if they're still stuck in the past with the Very Hazy System). The shadow detail is very good, with clear steps of detail visible between the brighter and darker portions of each and every shot. The early part of the film is especially good in this regard, as much of the action takes place in dimly-lit locations in the middle of the night, often with the only light being from the moon or the laser sights on machine guns. There is no low-level noise to spoil these displays of dimly-lit photography.
The colour saturation is rather vivid, without inappropriately making some locations seem more bright and colourful than they really should be. The sequences in Vienna, the Pentagon, and Sarajevo are particularly well done, with more shades of brown visible in the dirt at the border than even I knew existed. All of the tones in each sequence are captured perfectly with no signs of bleeding or misregistration.
MPEG artefacts are not an issue in this transfer, which is surprising when you consider how much stress the explosions and shots in the pool must have placed upon the compression. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some very occasional and very mild aliasing in such locations as car grilles and train tracks, which you'd have to really strain yourself to notice. Film artefacts consisted of some small white flecks that were occasionally present in inconspicuous areas of the picture, but were never really too distracting. Overall, this is a transfer that I would use to demonstrate the format to anyone who asks me why I invested in all that expensive hardware "just to watch movies".
This disc makes use of the RSDL format, with the layer change taking place in the middle of Chapter 11, at 79:03. The layer change is mildly noticeable, but not disruptive to the overall flow of the film.
There are two soundtracks on this DVD, both of which are in Dolby Digital 5.1 with the higher bitrate of 448 kilobits per second: the first, and the default, is the original English dialogue, with a dub in German on offer for those who are curious to see how the film sounds in such a harsh language. Naturally, I listened to both of the soundtracks in spite of only knowing enough German to deliver statements that would be completely incomprehensible in both languages. The dialogue is clear and easy to make out at all times, in spite of some rather heavy accents being used at times. There were no discernible problems with audio sync, at least not relating to the transfer, although it has been reported numerous times that George Clooney's lips fail to move the second time he calls Julia's (Nicole Kidman's) name.
The score music in this film is credited to Hans Zimmer, with additional music credited to Gavin Greenaway, and parts of Nocturnes by Frédéric Chopin used at some points. The score music manages to highlight the tension of the action sequences quite nicely, almost giving the film a sort of cartoon-like feel. Some of the stylings that would later show up in the Gladiator score are used here, with a certain emphasis on percussive rhythms apparent during the car chase in Vienna. Overall, this is one of the best film scores I have listened to in recent times, and one that only a Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 transfer can truly do justice to.
The surround channels are constantly active in this soundtrack, supporting the sounds of steam engines, helicopters, missiles, and the score music, just to name the most obvious examples. There are no moments when the surround field collapses into mono, with even the occasional quiet moments in the film using the rear channels to separate the ambient sounds from the dialogue. After the extremely cluttered and occasionally distorted sound I remember from the VHS rental cassette, this came as something of a revelation as to the difference an extra four channels can make. The subwoofer was constantly active to support various sound effects throughout the film, often leaping up into the air with the explosions in numerous sequences, all without calling any specific attention to itself.
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
The video transfer is excellent, bordering on reference quality.
The audio transfer is of reference quality.
The extras are limited, but they justify the space
they take up on the disc.
© Dean McIntosh (my
sucks... read it anyway)
January 10, 2000.
|DVD||Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output|
|Display||Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built In (Amplifier)|
|Amplification||Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NS-C120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer|