White Squall (1996)
Main Menu Audio
|Year Of Production||1996|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Ridley Scott|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Eric Michael Cole
Julio Oscar Mechoso
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/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|
Based on a true story, White Squall is the story of 13 high school students and their adventure onboard the sail training ship Albatross in the period 1960-1961. Directed by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise) it stars Jeff Bridges as Christopher Sheldon, the skipper of the ship.
Forgoing their final year of schooling at a proper land-based school, this group of students will still take normal lessons on board the ship, but will also learn the art of sailing and the importance of team work. The boys who board the ship for a year of sailing half way around the world and back again read like the who's who of clichéd school-aged characters. There's Chuck Gieg (Scott Wolf), the squeaky clean boy who only wants to please his demanding father and who becomes the narrator for much of the story (the film is based on the real Chuck Gieg's memoirs), Tod (Balthazar Getty) a tough kid with some hidden troubles, Frank (Jeremy Sisto) a boy with some problems of his own who has to deal with a truly unsavoury wealthy father, and Gil (Ryan Phillipe), a wimpy sort of character who's afraid of heights and can't climb the rigging. Lending a helping hand on board the ship are Sheldon's wife Alice (Caroline Goodall), who doubles as teacher and doctor, and the Shakespeare quoting English teacher McCrea played by John Savage.
Setting sail from Connecticut, the disparate group of boys will learn the ways of the sea and hopefully some discipline along the way. Skipper Sheldon is a wise man who will often remind the boys about the art and dangers of sailing and how the ship is not a toy and only with teamwork will everyone succeed. "Where we go one, we go all" is the catchcry of the Albatross and it's a message that is instilled painfully into the young crew. In between a few life lessons, including encounters with some lovely female Dutch students and a Cuban border patrol, the boys will hopefully become men.
Obviously given the title of the film, a few storms along the way will sort out the men from the boys and teach important lessons to many. With the encounter with the infamous white squall, the consequences of the year-long journey will certainly be far greater than any of the crew could have imagined and something all the boys will never forget.
I found this film to be a bit of a disappointment. I had trouble feeling any empathy with any of the characters, especially the crew of young boys who I felt all looked, acted and performed the same. The story plods at times, and even though the scenery the ship and crew found themselves in looked fantastic, I just didn't get swept along with the story enough. The overly melodramatic and soppy ending is a complete waste of time that almost ridicules the struggles of the previous two hours in a vain effort to wrap the whole thing up in that neat Hollywood fashion.
This isn't the greatest of video transfers I've ever seen but at least the aspect ratio is correct and not the 1.66:1 as incorrectly labelled on the packaging (this isn't the only error - see the audio section for more).
What we do have here is a transfer presented in its original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 which is also 16x9 enhanced.
The level of sharpness is barely acceptable at times and quite good at others. Several scenes offer a definite below-average effort in clarity (mostly the darker shots inside the ship), while others are crystal clear and clean (mostly the outside long shots of the various Caribbean Islands visited by the ship). Shadow detail is quite poor at times and is severely compromised on several occasions. Thankfully the level of graininess in the image is low and there is no dominant low level noise.
Colours are really quite dull for the most part with the vibrancy only cranking up when the crew moves to dry land and the garish colours of the various islands comes to the fore. Otherwise when on board ship, a lot of greens and blues dominate.
Overall there are no compression artefacts. Film-to-video artefacts are quite limited in appearance, with a tiny bit of aliasing on a couple of surfaces. Film artefacts are present, though thankfully almost all are small enough to not be a concern.
There is only the one subtitle track present. These are the English variety and are accurate enough without being completely perfect. I thought the typeface used was a little large.
This is a single layered disc, so there is no layer change to contend with.
Ignore the packaging with this disc, which proudly proclaims Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 surround soundtracks as being the choice of audio options. There isn't any sign of the 5.1 surround soundtrack at all.
What this disc does contain is a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround soundtrack which has the surround encoding flag set in the bitstream. It's not a bad soundtrack considering it is a matrixed surround effort. The level of surround activity is remarkably clean and solid and quite enveloping, especially during the white squall scene towards the end of the film. Dialogue levels are excellent and there are no audio sync problems.
A fairly dramatic score by Jeff Rona is provided that heightens the tension during the early part of the film. Unfortunately it slips into over-the-top melodrama, just like the rest of the story in the closing scenes.
As mentioned surround channel use is exceptional, while the subwoofer is also used to some extent during the louder storm sequences.
|Surround Channel Use|
A fairly average trailer that is presented in the wrong aspect ratio (1.78:1) and ups the ante on the melodrama even more than the film itself. Runs for 1:53.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 4 disc misses out on;
The Region 1 disc misses out on;
English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround soundtrack
2.35:1 16x9 enhanced transfer
I thought the Dolby Digital 2.0 surround soundtrack on the Region 4 disc was rather good and wouldn't be improved all that much from a mastering to 5.1 discrete channels. As a result I'd certainly favour the local disc with its anamorphic transfer.
White Squall is most certainly not director Ridley Scott's best work. In fact I'd probably lump it with Hannibal as among his worst efforts. Overly melodramatic and plodding, even during the action sequences, this is tedium on the high seas.
The video quality is only average, appearing quite dark and dingy at times when it is apparent this is not how it's supposed to look.
Despite the packaging which lists both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks, the sole Dolby Digital 2.0 surround soundtrack performs quite admirably, with decent front soundstage panning and plenty of rear channel effects.
The extras are limited to a trailer.
|DVD||Loewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).|
|Speakers||Front - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10|