The Horse Whisperer (1998)

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Released 12-Jul-1999

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 162:25
RSDL / Flipper FLIPPER (83:10) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Robert Redford
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Robert Redford
Kristin Scott Thomas
Sam Neill
Dianne Wiest
Scarlett Johansson
Chris Cooper
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $34.95 Music Thomas Newman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    The Horse Whisperer invites us into its leisurely world. Slowly-paced, its story unfolds with the passage of time - at least after the drama of the initial sequences. It stars Kristen Scott Thomas as Annie MacLean, a high-powered New York magazine editor. Annie is used to getting her own way, and she is used to always being right. Annie MacLean is the most annoying movie character I have met since the amazingly grating Jessica Lange in Hush, but that's just fine, since she is meant to be an unpleasant character.

    Sam Neill plays her husband, Robert MacLean. His is a wonderful character part, and even though he only has small parts at the beginning of the movie and at the end of the movie, he plays them very well. You end up feeling a great sadness for Robert - he is a good man, and he loves his wife and daughter dearly.

    Robert and Annie have a daughter, Grace (Scarlett Johansson). Grace loves to ride her horse, Pilgrim. A devastating horse-riding accident leaves Grace with a partially amputated leg, leaves Pilgrim severely injured, leaves her best friend dead, and leaves them both with deep emotional and physical scars.

    In an attempt to help her daughter (well, actually, mainly in an attempt to help herself), Annie seeks out a remarkable man - Tom Booker (Robert Redford).

    This is a wonderful-looking and sounding movie, with some stunning cinematography to enjoy. I found Annie's character grated considerably on me, and I found the concept of a romance between Annie and Tom ludicrous, but overall I enjoyed the movie's deliberately slow pace which allowed me to become engrossed in this other world. One thing I will say is thank goodness Robert Redford had the sense to shoot his romantic scenes almost totally in shadow which made them at least bearable.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. The early part of the film is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, windowboxed in the 2.35:1 frame, as it was shown theatrically.

    The transfer was sharp and clear throughout except for any shot involving a close-up of Robert Redford which was deliberately shot with a soft focus.

    The colours were, in a word, stunning, with glorious, lush, deep greens and browns. This aspect of the transfer is helped no end by the stunning cinematography and breathtaking use of the 2.35:1 scope aspect ratio.

    Some rare and unusual MPEG artefacts were seen. These consisted of wobble on the occasional foreground object. In particular, one of the four-wheel drive vehicles was affected by this artefact at times. A few scenes were adversely affected by aliasing, but these were few and far between. When it did occur, it was quite distracting. Film artefacts were rare.

    The subtitles listed on the packaging are incorrect. The disc actually only contains English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles, not English, Croatian, Greek, Portuguese, and English for the Hearing Impaired as claimed on the packaging.

    This disc is a flipper, with the side change at 83:10. It is actually minimally disruptive, and is placed at an excellent intermission point for this quite long movie (163 minutes). As always, RSDL formatting would have been preferred, but in this case I didn't mind too much.

Audio

    There is only a single audio track on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 5.1. The packaging claims that there is also a French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack on this disc. This is not present.

    Dialogue was always clear and easy to understand.

    There were no audio sync problems with this disc until nearly the very end of the movie. There, in a scene between Annie and her husband Robert, the sync goes out of kilter for a short time, but then returns to normal.

    The musical score by Thomas Newman is stunning, and perfectly suited to the film. It is slow, meandering and evocative. It creates a perfect sense of drama and adds to the laid-back feel of this movie.

    The surround channels were very well utilized by this movie, but in a subtle fashion. Ambience was frequently present in the rear channels, and music was also mixed to the rear. The net effect of this was to subtly envelop you and draw you in to the movie's world. It is a fine contrast to the more typical use of the surrounds exhibited by most action pictures, and is a fine example of the maxim that "less is more".

    The .1 channel was subtly integrated into the overall soundtrack, without having a great deal of work to do.

Extras

    There are no extras on this disc. The Amaray case has a small sheet which lists chapter stops, but that's it.

Menu

    The main menu is plain and functional. It is 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 disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    Personally, I'd rather have the 16x9 enhancement despite the inconvenience of having to get up and flip the disc mid-way through the movie.

Summary

    The Horse Whisperer is slower-paced than most films today, but it rewards a patient viewer. Annie's character is annoying, but she does mellow out towards the end of the movie. The romance between Tom and Annie seems rather far-fetched, but it is acceptably portrayed on-screen.

    The video quality is good, with a few minor quibbles.

    The audio quality is very good in a subtle fashion. It is a shame that a small segment of the movie is marred by audio sync problems.

    The extras are non-existent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
Thursday, August 19, 1999
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
DisplayLoewe Art-95 (95cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderDenon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Amplification2 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
SpeakersPhilips 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

Other Reviews
Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page - Ian M (Biological imperfection run amok)

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