Open Range (2003)
Main Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Rain
Featurette-Director And Cast Open Up About Open Range
Gallery-Photo-The Western - A Photo Essay
|Year Of Production||2003|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Kevin Costner|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Kevin Costner is one of the most interesting actors currently working in Hollywood. Not interesting in the way that Sean Penn, Robert de Niro or Christopher Walken are interesting I should hasten to add. No, interesting because for someone who delivers lines with such deadpan earnestness, and whose performances have blended into one monotonous bore, he has enjoyed extraordinary success. Following his multiple Oscar wins for Dances with Wolves, which many argued resurrected that dying corpse (some would say still dying) that is the western, he was the toast of the movie world. Unfortunately, for him and moviegoers, that success was to be quickly forgotten as turkeys like Waterworld and The Postman, amongst the most notorious and soundly lambasted films in modern movie history, embedded themselves in our consciousness. I must confess also that I thought his turn as Robin Hood choked life out of a legend with plenty of cinematic potential. It must be said that it hasn't all been bad news. There have been some good, sometimes great moments since 1990. Interestingly, two political thrillers top my pile of Costner films - Thirteen Days and JFK, and now comes another commendable film that seems closer in spirit to the actor director's Academy Award winning triumph than any other he's lent his efforts to - Open Range.
In a way this is a far more traditional western than either of the two most famous examples of the last decade and a half - Dances with Wolves, which was imbued with a universal sensibility, seeking to honour indigenous Americans and Unforgiven, which seemed more of an elegiac farewell to the genre than a production revelling in its unique charms. Open Range seems content, like its characters, to live and breathe the rolling plains and the endless skies. Costner plays Charley Waite, a cattleman who has ridden with Boss Spearman (yet another performance from the great Robert Duvall that is effortlessly commanding) for over a decade, the older gentleman acting as something of a paternal figure for Charley. Mose (Abraham Benrubi) and the orphan Button (Diego Luna, from Y Tu Mama Tambien) complete the roaming band.
Without giving too much away, trouble begins when Mose is sent into town on an errand and doesn't return. He has in fact been imprisoned by the local sheriff, Baxter (Michael Gambon), a suitably greedy proprietor who would love nothing more than to see the legacy of open range cattlemen (hence the title) fade. After Charley and Boss demand a badly beaten Mose's release, his need for medical attention sees them visit the town doctor and his sister (the luminous Annette Bening, one actress who I wished did more movies). Baxter doesn't appreciate being confronted by such folk as Charley and Boss, and refuses to let matters rest. To say any more would I think ruin much of the story, which despite its simplicity, is rewarding to see unfold. The acting, even from Costner, who suits this role better than any, is superb, and for a film budgeted at less than $30 million US, it looks and sounds stunning. This is not likely to convert those who find little appeal in the genre, but fans of the western I think will find everything - morals, love, gun fights, scenery, horses, cattle - they're looking for.
As mentioned, this film was shot on a comparatively miniscule budget. Kevin Costner reportedly had an almost impossible time drumming up enough financial support to get it made. He did manage it however, and with tremendous success. Not only did the film turn in a modestly remarkable performance at the box office, the creative team somehow made the film look infinitely more expensive than it was. It is sad in a way that intelligent, lovingly crafted films such as these must struggle for finance whilst studios throw millions upon millions of dollars at entirely unremarkable, generic garbage, slyly labelled as 'summer movies'. Anyway, enough of the grandstanding for a moment, as the transfer we have been afforded is beautiful to behold.
We have a gloriously wide frame - 2.35:1 aspect ratio, which was the original theatrical ratio, 16x9 enhanced. Sharpness is not perfect, but I tend to think that the cinematographer was going for a soft edged, nostalgic look to the film, which is eminently suitable. As such, a slight lack of detail is of minor concern. Shadow detail is excellent.
Colours are magnificent, amongst the best I have ever seen on a DVD. The plains, the dusty roads, and the gallant steeds all look fantastic. The palette is rich and redolent. Full marks. Skin tones are realistic and consistent. There is no noise.
Grain and pixelization were negligible, whilst aliasing was equally scarce. There were occasional moments of it but I must confess that I was so struck by the quality of the visuals that flaws thankfully faded from view.
For a recent film I expect minimal film artefacts and I was not disappointed. The print is clean and crystal clear.
The high standards continue with a beautiful sounding 5.1 Dolby Digital English track.
From the opening scenes we are immersed in a world of authentic sound that has been well designed and delivered.
Dialogue plays an important role in the film and it is presented clearly and without complications. Audio sync is faultless and there were no detectable glitches in the presentation.
Whether the sounds of hooves pounding the dusty tracks, drenching rain or the echoes of gunfire, the subtle but convincing use of the five speaker channels and some great subwoofer moments make this the best sounding disc I've had the pleasure of reviewing in my relatively short time writing for the site.
I must make note of the wonderful score by the late composer Michael Kamen whose ability to write soaring score, tinged in this case with Americana but never plagued by excessive cliché, will be sorely missed by this film score buff. It too is given terrific voicing in the audio transfer.
|Surround Channel Use|
Turning to the extras package I must confess more than a few pangs of disappointment - more on that later. There is some good stuff here, be it far too superficial and scant.
Text biographies and recollections of the shoot with:
History of the Western - Photo Essay
This is the best presentation of a photo essay I've yet seen on a DVD but at barely four minutes its brevity is criminal. Presented at a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, 16x9 enhanced, we traipse through the development of the western with a montage of fantastic photographs, from some of the earliest films ever made to the height of the genre - think John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Clint Eastwood and then towards the modern day.
Trailer - Open Range
A good if not great trailer presented at 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced and running just over two minutes.
I have it seems been a little too forgiving of inadequate Region 4 releases in a few previous reviews. Well let me tell you that I will not under any circumstances forgive the travesty of our local extras package. Not since I learned I had missed out on the brilliant hour long documentary on the Region 4 Apollo 13 release have I been so ropable about missing out on extras.
The Region 1 is a 2-disc Special Edition, and we miss out on the following:
Our Dolby Digital track is wonderful and whilst I would generally favour a DTS option that doesn't concern me anywhere near as much as the complete annihilation of the Region 4 extras package. I can do nothing else but tell anyone who loves this film to buy the Region 1 release. The video quality is apparently excellent, though I would suggest not as good as ours, but in every other respect it is the more desirable edition.
Open Range has convinced me that the western deserves to be kept alive for many years to come. I cannot think of higher praise than that.
The video quality is wonderful.
The audio is equally commendable.
The lack of extras available on the Region 1 edition is a huge letdown. Huge.
|DVD||Yamaha DVR-S100, using Component output|
|Display||Sony 76cm Widescreen Trinitron TV. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Amplification||Yamaha DVR-S100 (built in)|
|Speakers||Yamaha NX-S100S 5 speakers, Yamaha SW-S100 160W subwoofer|