|Category||Thriller||Theatrical Trailer(s)||Yes, 1 - 1.78:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0|
|Year Released||1997||Commentary Tracks||Yes, 1 - Jon Avnet (Director)|
|Running Time||117:16 minutes||Other Extras||Booklet|
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||No||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Dolby Digital||5.1|
|16x9 Enhancement||Yes||Soundtrack Languages||English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Having now seen the film, it is easy to understand why the Chinese were very "offended" by the film. This does not flatter the Chinese justice system in any way, and it seems the producers and director went to some lengths to ensure a high degree of authenticity. Of course, the Chinese government was even more mortified by the fact that Richard Gere starred in the film, as he is decidedly a "persona non grata" in China, thanks to his avowed opposition to the Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet and his avowed support of the Dalai Lama. Quite an engrossing film, if not necessarily the stuff of great entertainment, this is a very nicely crafted story by Robert King well brought to life by Richard Gere and Bai Ling; indeed on this performance I would suggest that Bai Ling deserves much more exposure in Western film than she currently has had. The support cast, including many Chinese actors, is no less impressive and this really is an excellent production. I especially liked the slightly different ending: nice to see a cliché not used for once.
Having never been to Beijing, I do not know how accurate a portrayal has been made of the city, but it would seem that despite no officially sanctioned photography, a nice blending of actual photography and computer graphics has resulted in a nicely authentic feel to the production. This was immensely helped by the Chinese cast members input too, judging by the commentary by director Jon Avnet.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced. The packaging incorrectly states this to be a 2.35:1 transfer.
The transfer in general is quite sharp and well defined, although shadow detail at times I felt should have been better. However, it would seem that the director was trying to set a distinct style in certain scenes, which may account for some slightly diminished shadow detail. The director's commentary certainly makes reference on several occasions to the lighting effects used.
Colours are nicely vibrant and come across very convincingly indeed. There was no hint of oversaturation or bleed at all, and this was a very consistent transfer as far as colour is concerned. Some use was made of black and white for flashback scenes, and this was very nicely done.
The bad glitch in the transfer comes at 35:56 and I do not know if this is an MPEG artefact or a video artefact. There is a slight pause in the transfer accompanied by a picture break up, which does not look like pixelization (a la The Fugitive) but rather like an especially bad edit. Whatever it is, it is most distracting and frankly I am surprised that it was allowed past quality control. Apart from that, there were no MPEG artefacts noted nor any significant video artefacts. Film artefacts were a different matter however, with some quite noticeable marks in the transfer early on and again at about 80:40 when what appears to be a white, squarish mark is seen on the right hand side of the picture. In my view this is a flawed transfer that may cause some people concern; certainly I am less than impressed by the problems in the transfer.
This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change coming at 69:47; this is a very well placed change, which is barely noticeable in the flow of the film. Indeed, it was only by noting the brief 'search' message on my player that I realized the layer change was occurring.
Typically for MGM discs, there is only the single soundtrack on the disc, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There is however also an English Audio Commentary track in Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to both the soundtrack and the audio commentary.
Dialogue was at times a little difficult to hear in the soundtrack, a combination of hushed voices and two people - the orator and the translator - speaking at once. I found myself adjusting the volume control throughout the film to try and hear the soundtrack, so you may be advised to set your volume control a little higher than normal for this one. There were no problems with the audio commentary track.
There did not appear to be any audio sync problems with the soundtrack.
The music score comes from Thomas Newman and it is a very oriental sounding score that complements the on screen action very well. This is probably the best soundtrack that I heard from Thomas Newman, who has turned up on a few discs in my collection recently. The use of percussion and light wind instruments was especially well done in the soundtrack.
The surround channels were quite well balanced and nicely detailed throughout. The rear channels were not overused, but did provide some very complementary background to the front channels. I have no complaints with the sound picture created at all, with some imaginative use of unusual tonal levels especially during the scenes in the interview room.
There was not an especially large amount of action thrown at the bass channel, but when used it was quite effective.
The overall video quality is very good, but marred by some distracting problems.
The overall summary audio quality is very good.
A decent collection of extras rounds out the package.
© Ian Morris
23rd 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|