Uprising (2001)

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Released 25-Feb-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Listing-Cast & Crew
Audio Commentary-John Avnet
Audio Commentary
Featurette-Breaking Down The Walls
Featurette-Resistance
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 152:29
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (77:59)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jon Avnet
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Hank Azaria
David Schwimmer
Leelee Sobieski
Jon Voight
Donald Sutherland
Stephen Moyer
Cary Elwes
Case Gatefold
RPI $32.95 Music Maurice Jarre


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
Dutch
Arabic
Spanish
Portuguese
German
Romanian
Bulgarian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Uprising is the story of the Jewish armed resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto, Poland, 1943. Being a student of military history, I was quite keen to see a film representation of this period, especially given the recent release of Roman Polanski’s new film The Pianist set amidst the same events.

     The story of Uprising is the story of the leaders of the resistance movement. Mordechai (Hank Azaria), a literature teacher, realises the futility of passive resistance in the face of the Nazi holocaust, and seeks to foster a movement of armed resistance, the logic being that if you are going to die anyway, you might as well take a few of your enemy with you, and meet your end on your feet like a human being. He enlists the aid of his best friends, Yitzhak (David Schwimmer) and Kazik (Stephen Moyer) and little by little their numbers grow until they are taking the fight to the Germans.

     Actually knowing the events, and their political ramifications I think may have been a slight impediment to really enjoying this film. In particular, the tensions between Polish Catholicism and Polish Judaism were repeatedly pointed out, i.e. the schism between nationalism and theology. While I have my own opinion on the subject, I’m not going to publish it here. Suffice it to say, some people (though not myself) are going to take it as a personal affront to their theological or nationalist self-conception. There is definitely a bias, but I think only because of the perspective from which the story was being told. Those bigots who love to expound Zionist conspiracies are sure to read one into this Hollywood portrayal of events (after all, Hollywood is full of Jews, isn’t it?), and oh please try because there is nothing more entertaining than a stupid person. It should be pointed out that the film was largely made by a non-Jewish cast and crew, and the director Jon Avnet was keener to tell a story of armed resistance against oppression than of the politics of the Nazi-perpetrated genocide against the Jews, and the supposed tacit collaboration by some Polish Catholics. Still, I found that sometimes Avnet forgot that point, despite his best intentions, and tried to address an issue that has its own separate and complex facets which can only be appreciated in a far broader historical context than the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. What results is a half-baked examination of very difficult subject matter. Avnet handles the detestation of the Jewish collaborators far better, but most people will be largely oblivious to this shortcoming and can disregard my comments on the matter.

     My major problem with Uprising was that some of the themes of resistance were a little laboured towards the end, and actually spoke down to the audience. There were times when I found myself muttering, “Yeah, yeah, I heard you the first time. And the second time. And the time after that.” This persistent repetition does not work in the same way that such techniques work in other mediums, like the novels of Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk. Indeed, in this film, they rob those instances of their dramatic potential.

     That criticism aside, for a film made for US cable, the production values were exceptional. This does not look like a made-for-television movie. The acting was for the most part also well above average, with perhaps the exception of Cary Elwes who never quite manages to pull off a German accent. Even Leelee Sobieski puts in a fine performance after being just ‘that good looking chick with a penchant for getting naked’ in so many other films. She does, by the way, get naked in this film too.

     Uprising is an extremely well made and interesting film. I still think more could have been made of the absolute nihilistic bent that comes with accepting that you are going to die, and the twisted anger against those responsible that this realisation produces in those with the will to die on their feet. The same mentality was used to bring a powerful conclusion to David Fincher’s Alien 3. The awakening towards a will to fight in this film was not handled well enough to produce a truly emotional response, although its clinical edge works for it to an extent. Avnet states that he was trying to get a realistic portrayal on this front, and maybe that is true, but it never embraces the truly dark passionate violence of the story. With some better scripting, this film could have been exceptional. As it stands, it is still definitely worth the time and the money, but for me it lacks the passion that could have taken it to the next level.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     This transfer is pristine. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced. This is the original aspect ratio.

     The image is always clear and sharp. Shadow detail is excellent, and given that much of this takes place at night, that is important. There is the barest of low-level noise.

    Colours are well saturated, with dramatic flashes of colour against the stark grey reality of the ghetto.

     I noticed only the faintest of aliasing on some of the brickwork in panning shots with actors close to rough brick walls. This was in no way disruptive, and I found myself straining my eyes to even detect it. If there was any dirt on or imperfections in the print, I did not detect them.

     The dual-layer pause is at 77:59 during a scene change. It is only minimally disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There are three audio tracks on this disc: an English 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack; and French and Italian 2.0 Dolby Digital surround-encoded soundtracks. I listened fully to the English soundtrack and cursorily to the French and Italian tracks, which sounded fine.

     The English soundtrack is very good, particularly for a film intended for TV. Obviously considerable post-production work went into this film, because there are some great instances of surround sound usage, particularly during the battle sequences. There is also some great bass usage when flame-throwers are torching buildings.

     Dialogue is always clear and easy enough to understand once you are used to the accents. There were no audio sync problems that I detected.

     Music is a big theme in this film and so it is always emphasised through the speakers, at times intentionally drowning out the sound of what is happening on screen.

     The subwoofer was put to good use, especially during the scenes using tanks and artillery, but also with the high-calibre machine guns. Not quite to the standard of Black Hawk Down, but remember this film was made for television without the budget and technical expertise that Ridley Scott had access to on that project.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menus

     All menus are static shots. They are 16x9 enhanced, with the theme music playing underneath in 2.0 Dolby Stereo.

Cast & Crew

     A static page showing the head line up of cast and who they play, as well as the director, producers and screenwriters.

Commentary - Jon Avnet

     As a director, my largest criticism of Avnet is that sometimes he tries to bite off more than he can chew. He has a particular vision and wants to keep to that, and I can respect this. He is obviously talented. As someone to listen to, talking about the making of his film, he actually concentrates far more on the historical factuality of the events and the themes of his film, rather than technicalities. This is quite refreshing actually as it gives a good insight into how he sees his work, rather than the process of actually making the film.

Commentary - Cast

     This is kind of a scene specific commentary by the cast. Hank Azaria, David Schwimmer and Jon Voight are in one session. Leelee Sobieski does commentary for scenes specific to herself. Given the fact that this film is two and a half hours long, it is no surprise that there are long patches of silence on this track, particularly scenes where none of the actors present for the commentary are on screen.

Documentary - Resistance (28:50)

     This is an actual historical documentary about the oppression of the Jews in Poland by the Nazi occupation forces and the armed resistance that arose. It explores the mentality of resistance, and how and why people do resist oppression. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, with 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo audio.

Featurette - Breaking Down The Walls (18:20)

     A rather typical making of documentary that explores all the technical hassles of recreating the Warsaw Ghetto and making a film about Jewish heroes. Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on:

    There is nothing compelling to prefer one version over the other.

Summary

     Uprising is an interesting story told very well, and it kept my attention to the end. However, with some better scripting and a little more judicious direction it could have been exceptional. It lacks the real passion that should come with this form of nihilistic violence, but this is just me being very picky.

     The video transfer is excellent.

     The audio transfer is likewise particularly good.

     The extras are well worth the time, but not being much for commentaries myself, I thought the documentaries were clearly the pick of the bunch.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Sunday, March 16, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
length differences between r4/r2 and r1 - Mathieu