Longitude (2000)

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Released 4-Aug-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 198:20
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (101:31) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Charles Sturridge
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Jonathan Coy
Christopher Hodsol
Jeremy Irons
Peter Cartwright
Gemma Jones
John Nettleton
Michael Gambon
Nigel Davenport
Liam Jennings
Anna Chancellor
Frank Finlay
Geoffrey Hutchings
Andrew Scott
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music Geoffrey Burgon


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.75:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The problem of navigation at sea and its solution is one of the greatest stories of invention of all time. As it turned out, time, or more precisely the accurate measurement thereof was the solution. Latitude is your position on an imaginary line running east-west around the globe. It is easily measured by referring to some fixed star such as the North Star in the northern hemisphere. You now have the number of degrees North or South of the equator that pertains to your position. This is all well and good, but is not very useful without knowing just where on this line you are. For this you need your longitude, and there is no easy way to measure this. One way is to break the globe up into a series of vertical lines and arbitrarily locate the 0th degree line - historically this was positioned in Greenwich, England. As the earth rotates, each point on the globe will come directly under the sun - the local midday. If there was some way of accurately knowing Greenwich time in a remote location, then the difference in time between the local midday and Greenwich time would tell you about the distance between the two points.

    There is of course one very small problem with this system - that of knowing Greenwich time accurately. Clocks of the period were just not up to the task of keeping accurate time even when sitting in the one room and never being moved. Clocks travelling on sailing ships were subjected to rough movement, damp, heat and cold as the climates changed as well as suffering a host of other abuses. There simply was no device of the time that could keep time under these conditions. Even a small error in time, such as one minute, would lead to a navigational error of 15 nautical miles or about 27 kilometres - that's one minute over a voyage lasting weeks or months.

    This may sound strange today with cheap accurate digital watches freely available, but consider the difficulty of developing and building a mechanical device that could keep such accuracy under conditions that were atrocious. Even mechanical timepieces manufactured today, unless they are specifically marine chronometers, would not have won the prize nearly three hundred years ago.

    Such was the problem and the resultant loss of life as ships were lost at sea or run aground. One particular incident involved an entire fleet and cost over 2000 lives, so in 1714 the British parliament passed into law an act offering a prize of up to 20,000 pounds for anyone that could find a method of accurately determining Longitude at sea.

    There were many strange schemes proposed attempting to win this prize, which was incredibly large for its time. One of the competing methods to clocks in fact features prominently in the story as the main proponent of it was on the board that was set up to judge the winner of the prize. John Harrison was a not-so-simple country carpenter with no formal scientific training. He was a genius and set out to win this prize, although he met with stiff resistance from the establishment. England of the 1700s was very class conscious and the thought that a common carpenter might do what upper class university graduates and scientists could not was anathema to them.

    Despite ground-breaking developments in accurate mechanical timepieces, he was constantly harassed by the Longitude committee who were determined from the start not to award the prize to Harrison. The clocks themselves, and there are four, took long enough to develop and prove, but the procrastination of the Longitude committee drew out the entire process to over 43 years. In fact, it was not the committee that finally awarded the full prize, but on the King's intervention parliament itself stepped in to recognise the work of the Harrisons.

    This film actually covers the life of several people: the Harrisons, both John and his son in the 1700s; and in the 1900s one man in particular, Rupert Gould. Both men dedicated their lives to four time pieces; John Harrison in developing and building them and Rupert Gould in restoring them some 220 years later. The movie jumps back and forth across the times to follow the work of both men and its effect on their lives. For Rupert Gould they were an obsession that cost him, amongst other things, his marriage and his job.

    The re-enactment of the 1700s is definitely the best part of the movie. It is very well done and is both fascinating and riveting to watch. The story told in the early 1900s is not quite as interesting, but does allow the story to detail the technical aspects of what John Harrison was up to without interrupting the flow of that story with great slabs of exposition. As Rupert Gould is researching the clocks and restoring them, we follow through with what makes each of the clocks unique in a very general way. They do leave out some of the more interesting and technical aspects of the clocks, probably so as to not lose the average audience, an example being that they do not mention the escapement that was the key to the final fourth clock achieving its accuracy. What this means is that you can understand what the challenges were in the 1700s while still being engrossed in the human side of the story.

    The movie is a mini-series consisting of two episodes, the first being 93:06 in length and the second 105:14. They are combined into one feature on this disc, running for a total of 198:20.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     While the film is presented at its original 1.75:1 aspect ratio, unfortunately it is letterboxed rather than 16x9 enhanced. The loss of the extra resolution does show, particularly on larger screens.

    Overall the image is a little soft. Shadow detail is good and there is only some very minor low level noise. The brightness is somewhat less than it could be both in luminance and in colouration.

    The saturation of the colours is good but as mentioned, the brightness of them is a little disappointing.

    There are some very minor instances of pixelization but you will be hard-pressed to notice them. Aliasing is a problem, such as on the oars and sides of the rowboat at 49:03. Film artefacts are restricted to visible grain which is only really noticeable in mid contrast scenes.

    Unfortunately there are no subtitles present on the disc.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change at 101:31 just at the start of the second episode. It is very well placed on a scene change to a close-up and is pretty much invisible.

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

Audio

     There is a single English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack on this disc.

    Dialogue quality is excellent throughout as is the audio sync.

    The music is a very good orchestral score that works with the film to draw you into what is happening.

    Despite being only a surround encoded soundtrack, it is very well done. There is plenty of ambience to draw you into the world of the film, particularly on the sea voyages with the sound of the sea nicely surrounding you.

    The subwoofer supported the soundtrack without drawing undue attention to itself.

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

Extras

Menu

    A static 1.33:1 (not 16x9 enhanced) menu with a picture of Jeremy Irons as his character Rupert Gould on the left with a montage inset of the fourth Harrison time piece. There is no audio.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    Of course everybody has missed out on 16x9 enhancement which is a shame. The toss up is between the correct aspect ratio and the single special feature. For me, the aspect ratio is paramount, giving us a Region 4 winner, although the absence of subtitles is not a good omission.

Summary

    A fascinating story of a little-known inventor who literally changed the face of the planet. Without his invention the great empires that were built by the seafaring nations probably would not have come about, or at least certainly not in the time frames that they did. Down here in Australia we are part of the story as one of Captain Cook's voyages was part of the testing of Harrison's marine chronometer, though this is not shown in the film.

    The video is not bad.

    The audio is good for a surround encoded track.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Friday, January 23, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR800
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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