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Details At A Glance

Category Thriller Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1995 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 116:35 Minutes  Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Ron Howard

Warner Home Video
Starring Mel Gibson
Rene Russo
Gary Sinise
Delroy Lindo
Lili Taylor
Case Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music James Horner

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 )
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 )
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles English 
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Sometimes Ron Howard amazes me and turns in a very good directorial effort, which is quite surprising when you consider that he is also responsible for the appalling Wonderland, a television show that has offended so many people with its sickening, stereotypical view of some of the most misunderstood people in our world that sponsors are ditching it left and right. Ransom is one film in which he manages to get things right, and the way in which he directs this film results in a very positive reaction from me. Ransom is the story of Tom Mullen (Mel Gibson), a man who built his air courier empire from the ground up and is therefore a very determined man (faint echoes of Gibson's life story in that role, of course, which explains why he was chosen for the role). His wife, Kate (Rene Russo, and boy these two work well together), is a doting mother whose devotion to her son becomes obvious at many points in the film. Seeing the way in which they both react as their son, Sean (Brawley Nolte) is kidnapped makes the film as compelling to watch as it is, and this display of understanding human emotions and how to bring them to the screen is what makes Ron Howard's other piece of work all the more frustrating. In any case, Tom agrees to pay the ransom since he is the type of guy who wants to get out of situations like this with the minimum possible amount of fuss. In other words, he is a payer, as the leader of the kidnappers puts it. When things go horribly wrong at the drop-off point, Tom comes to the horrifying realization that the kidnappers have no intention of returning his son to him, so he goes on national television with a stunning proposal.

    To tell you any more about this film would ruin the film, although the replayability factor is surprisingly high given how reliant on suspense the film is. It would be sufficient to say that this is a great film, with all of the major players putting in some of the greatest performances of their careers. Gary Sinise and Lili Taylor are absolutely superb. Brawley Nolte does exceptionally well with the very limited role he has, succeeding admirably in drawing audience sympathy towards his character, and Delroy Lindo is very convincing as the FBI Agent assigned to the case. Thrillers simply do not get much better than this, and there's even a couple of sequences that will satisfy the ardent action fans. In plot terms, this film is very much worthy of your thirty-five dollars.

Transfer Quality


    Having seen this film at the cinema many moons ago, I was wondering how it would look on a Touchstone DVD. Suffice it to say that the video transfer is quite good, with only a few minor problems that you won't really notice if you've glimpsed the film on VHS at any point.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, complete with what appears to be true 16x9 enhancement as opposed to an upconverted 16x9 transfer. The resolution of the image, with all the bloody details, would strongly suggest that someone in Touchstone went back to the original negatives and converted them down into the 1.78:1 shape (the film was shot in 1.85:1). The transfer was generally sharp and clear, although scenes involving high amounts of motion had a tendency to lose a little definition. In most cases, this was as much the fault of the original photography as the transfer. The first ten minutes of the film were slightly less than satisfactory in terms of sharpness, but the transfer was otherwise just like watching the film in its original theatrical version. Shadow detail was satisfactory, and a little below what one would expect from a film of this vintage, but this is again a limitation imposed by the way the film was shot rather than the transfer. No low-level noise was apparent except in shots of computer screens, and this is again a reflection of the way in which the film was shot.

    The colour saturation was spot-on, and identical to the theatrical exhibit after the first ten minutes, which is surprising when you think about the amount of the film that mostly consists of deep blacks and fluorescent lights. MPEG artefacts were conspicuously absent from the transfer, which is very good considering that there is just under two hours on the one layer. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of moderate amounts of aliasing on such things as cars and menswear, with some moiré effects becoming apparent on filmed television sets for good measure. Film artefacts were very rare and inconspicuous, with only the occasional tiny black or white dot appearing in the picture from time to time.


    A choice of three audio tracks are provided with this DVD. The original English dialogue is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and a couple of Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded dubs in French and Italian are provided for good measure. I stuck with the original English dialogue, but I also sampled some of Mel Gibson's and Gary Sinise's lines in Italian. The dialogue was always perfectly clear and audible, reflecting the amount of reliance the film has on the dialogue to begin with. Audio sync was never a problem with the original English dialogue, although the Italian dub seemed to have a slightly surreal and out-of-step feel during the phone conversation between Gibson's and Sinise's characters after the television appearance I cannot really tell you about.

    This film score is one of the few efforts by James Horner that I can say I am impressed with, as it injects a great deal of tension and emotion into all of the sequences which it accompanies. A few snippets of contemporary music were used in some sequences to provide the appropriate atmosphere in a scene or two, but this was done in the correct manner of being a prop rather than a product placement. This is one film where the soundtrack album may be worth the additional investment.

    The surround presence of this disc is basically non-existent. Ambient sounds and special effects were poured through the front channels, while the rears were used for a handful of minutes to support the sound of moving cars. Given the recent vintage of this film, this is a rather surprising and disappointing mix to say the very least. The subwoofer was mostly silent throughout the film, with very few moments in the onscreen action actually requiring its support, anyway. It did a very good job of supporting the action sequences, however.


    Man, am I the only person who is sick of films that were so heavily publicized when they got their theatrical release being packaged with no extras whatsoever? I cannot be the only one, surely!


    The menu is plain, functional, and somewhat difficult to navigate. It is 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     There's no contest here. Stick with the local version (I never thought I'd say that about a Touchstone release after the way they treated Starship Troopers).


    If you've ever been in a situation where you are frightened for someone else's well-being to the extent that you know you'll never be the same person again, you will certainly relate to Ransom. It is presented on a good DVD.

    The video quality is good, with only a handful of problems early in the transfer causing any problem.

    The audio quality is sadly limited considering how immersive this film was at the theatre.

    Extras, on a Touchstone disc?

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
26th April, 2000
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D, using composite output; Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Panasonic TC-29R20 (68 cm), 4:3 mode, using composite input; Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer