Sniper: 23 Days of Fear in Washington D.C. (D.C. Sniper: 23 Days of Fear) (2003)

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Released 7-Apr-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 85:38
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Tom McLoughlin
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Charles Dutton
Jay O. Sanders
Bobby Hosea
Trent Cameron
Helen Shaver
Tom O'Brien
Charlayne Woodard
Garwin Sanford
Doug Abrahams
Mike Kopsa
David Neale
Veena Sood
Nels Lennarson
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Mark Snow


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/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
German
Czech
Dutch
Greek
Hungarian
Polish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Who could forget the bizarre chain of events during 2002, when a sniper, targeting random civilians, spread fear through Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia, USA? Nightly News footage showing people crouching behind their cars as they filled up at gas (petrol) stations? Images of people quickly darting through car parks and open shopping centre malls, hiding under awnings, or just staying inside? DC Sniper attempts to tell the story behind these events, but leaves more questions than answers.

    John Allen Muhammad (AKA John Allen Williams) is an ex-US soldier who served in the Gulf War. The US Defence Department claimed he was an "expert marksman" who had won awards for his rifle skills. Indeed, he was stationed at Fort Lewis, just south of Tacoma, Washington State, which offers an intensive sniper training program. Muhammad was arrested in October 2002 with his 'step-son', Lee Boyd Malvo (AKA John Lee Malvo), a 17-year-old Jamaican boy. Muhammad has since been sentenced to death over one of the murders in a string of sniper killings in and around Washington that left 10 people dead and three injured.

    "A FEDERAL ARREST WARRANT HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR JOHN ALLEN MUHAMMAD ALSO KNOWN AS JOHN ALLEN WILLIAMS, A BLACK MALE, 42 YEARS OF AGE, APPROXIMATELY 6"01" TALL AND APPROXIMATELY 180 POUNDS IN WEIGHT. THE WARRANT ALLEGES VIOLATION OF FEDERAL FIREARMS LAWS. THIS CHARGE IS NOT RELATED TO THE RECENT SHOOTINGS BEING INVESTIGATED BY THE MONTGOMERY COUNTY TASK FORCE . . . WE BELIEVE THAT MUHAMMAD MAY HAVE INFORMATION MATERIAL TO OUR INVESTIGATION." (Statement from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, US Dept. of Justice, found at   www.atf.gov/sniperinvest/photo.htm)

    The problem I have with this movie is that Muhammad's motives remain unclear and empty. The other problem I have is that the story takes an extremely sympathetic look at Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose (Charles Dutton). What shocked me about these events is that Muhammad basically handed himself in, by giving authorities a tip-off (via a priest) as to who he was. This was after many failed attempts by Muhammad to contact the police themselves via phone calls (due to Police procedure). In short, if Muhammad didn't tell them who he was, it was unlikely that the pair would have been caught, as the investigation was completely misdirected -- the police were looking for a white male in a white van, not two black males in a dark sedan. Of course, it later comes to light that this dark sedan had been spotted at many of the shootings (Oops!)

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Overall, the transfer is very good.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness is excellent. The black level is good, and there are plenty of shadowy scenes showing off the great shadow detail. The colour is also very good, and the skin tones are accurate.

    There are no problem with MPEG or film-to-video artefacts. A few tiny film artefacts appear throughout, and most are barely noticeable, even when the image is projected.

    English, French, German, Czech, Dutch, Greek, Hungarian, and Polish subtitles are present, and the English ones are accurate. This is a single-sided, single-layered disc, which is acceptable considering the limited content.

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

Audio

    There are three audio options on this DVD: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), and German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s).

    The dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent.

    The musical score is credited to Mark Snow, and it comprises a lot of eerie sounds which help build the tension.

    Considering that this is a made-for-television production, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the surround sound mix. It's quite effective, and a good example is the helicopter circling the crime scene at 7:19. The LFE track is subtle, but lends a hand when required.

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

Extras

    There are no extras

Menu

    A very simple menu, it is static and silent.

R4 vs R1

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

    Strangely, I can not find any trace of this movie being available in R1.

Summary

   DC Sniper features great photography and editing, and it builds the tension well throughout. The acting was good, and in particular, Bobby Hosea provides a brilliantly restrained performance as Muhammad. However, overall, the movie is just a collection of events, rather than a fluid story. It also ends rather abruptly, with no postscript to advise viewers as to what happened to the pair. I'm assuming this made-for-television production was rushed out very quickly.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is good.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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