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Peaceful Warrior (2006)
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Details At A Glance
||Drama Sport New Ag
Menu Animation & Audio-Animated rain and music from film.
Interviews-Cast & Crew-(16:01) Three cast members plus author, Dan Millman.
Year Of Production
||Cast & Crew
Roadshow Home Entertainment
NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.
Writer / director Victor Salva has established himself over the past fifteen or so years with a small number of films. Possibly best known for the fable of the modern pariah, Powder (1995), the father/son thriller Rites of Passage and the scariest film of the past decade, Jeepers Creepers (2001), followed by its almost as good sequel Jeepers Creepers II (2003), these four films were written, as well as being directed, by Salva. For Peaceful Warrior the director has taken the written word of others and translated the printed page into an enjoyable, thoughtful and stimulating movie experience.
Kevin Bernhardt's screenplay is based on Dan Millman's novel Way of the Peaceful Warrior. In the words of Millman himself, "Peaceful Warrior the movie is based upon the book, which is based upon my life". The book, initially published in 1980, has been inspirational to millions of readers with Millman, seen wonderfully fit and athletic at sixty-one in the DVD's extras, making no claim that everything in his book "really happened", preferring to state that his work was "inspired by true events". Whatever the audience's view may be on accepting or explaining the inexplicable in life, Salva has crafted a film that does not attempt to be persuasive, but does succeed in telling an uplifting and potentially inspirational tale.
Dan Millman (Scott Mechlowicz), a gymnast attending the University of California, is woken by a frightening dream in which he has shattered his leg during a competition. Leaving his attractive blonde girlfriend in bed alone, Dan jogs out into the night. In the mist filled wee small hours he finds himself at a gas station cum convenience store operated by a softly spoken grizzled, but neatly grey-bearded, senior (Nick Nolte). This old man is full of wisdom, not well received by the arrogantly young, fit and romantically sated Dan. "My Dad's got plenty of cash - school's kind of a breeze, I get straight A's - I got great friends. I'm in great shape and I only sleep alone when I absolutely want to." As he is about to leave the cryptic old man, Dan witnesses him execute an impossible physical feat - simple, but nonetheless inexplicable. The bemused Dan returns to his warm bed, but each night thereafter he wakes and is drawn back to the gas station and the old man, whom he has nicknamed "Socrates". As the old philosopher works on car engines the resistant Dan is bombarded with philosophic words of wisdom. A respite occurs one night in the form of Joy (Amy Smart) a young lady who arrives with a prepared meal for Socrates and who evidently has already spiritually benefited from knowing this mysterious mechanic. In these philosophical discussions with Socrates, Dan is urged to forget the past and to "move from wishful thinking to constructive actions" if he is find true meaning in life. After experiencing what Dan calls Socrates' "mind tricks", finding himself reading the thoughts of his coach and fellow gymnasts, for a time Dan accepts and follows the guidance of his mentor, restricting his consumption of meat, alcohol and sex. The pressure becomes too much for Dan who rebels, yells at Socrates that he is "tired, hungry and horny", and returns to his former indulgently egocentric lifestyle. While riding his bike Dan is involved in a disastrous road accident and, badly injured, he is forced to give up his dreams of gymnastic achievement and fame. It is the philosophy of Socrates that offers Dan the possibility that his life is not over, and that success in life is more a journey of spiritual discovery rather than an accumulation of accolades and trophies.
Salva has been generally successful in melding two different types of films. On the one hand we have the inspirational sports story with the underdog struggling against all odds, a formula already well tried when Sam Wood directed Jimmy Stewart as one-legged baseball hero Monty Stratton in The Stratton Story (1949), and which has survived with the most recent battler being Sylvester Stallone's resurrection of Rocky Balboa. In addition we have the theme of an older mentor instilling spiritual and self discovery in a younger student, a theme which we can trace back to classics like Lost Horizon and The Razor's Edge through to The Karate Kid and even Star Wars. There are some occasional pangs of apprehension that Salva's movie is about to become yet another testosterone epic, with Dan jogging silhouetted in the rain, the musical anthem-like soundtrack telegraphing what we should be feeling, yet he just pulls back in time. Fortunately the "hero" of the tale is not the typical popular jock who experiences trauma in his life, but a rather shallow, unpleasant and obnoxious young man who has more gifts in his life than he can appreciate. Possibly the nature of the sport, the comparatively non-aggressive, no contact field of gymnastics helps in reigning in the more macho perils that could have befallen the film. Scott Mechlowicz (Mean Creek) gives an excellent performance, never playing for sympathy, but ultimately building our empathy for Dan in his struggle. The young actor has an excellent face for close-ups, and these are used extremely well to seemingly look into the mind of the character. Evidently Mechlowicz underwent a couple of months of professional training to equip himself physically for the role, and very clever editing enables us to believe that it is actually the actor doing all of the strenuous and balletic gymnastics on screen.
There still would remain the problem of the film becoming bogged down in its philosophical good intentions, but this does not happen due largely to the casting of Nick Nolte as Socrates. Always a no-nonsense, down to earth character on screen, from Rich Man, Poor Man to The Good Thief, Nolte is the perfect sage mentor. The years have only added to the actor's on-screen stature, and he has that wonderful art of seeming not to be acting at all, but merely speaking the truth. It should be noted that while Nolte often appears on-screen as a dishevelled deadbeat, here he looks wonderfully fit and healthy. Rounding out the three principals is the very attractive Amy Smart (The Butterfly Effect / Crank), who, with minimal screen time, has the ability to create attractive young women of depth and intelligence.
Technically the film is most impressive, although budget restrictions are obvious when cardboard cutouts appear as spectators in some shots in the final competition sequence. Director Salva uses a number of his regular team of experts, with excellent camerawork under the guidance of Director of Photography Sharone Meir. Happily this is yet another film making full use of the "scope" image, not only in the imaginative photography of the gymnastics and the motorbike sequences, but also in the smallest, most intimate scenes. Complementing this is the very effective editing of Ed Marx (Jeepers Creepers, Swimming with Sharks), never obtrusive, but cleverly concealing the "doubling" in the gymnastic sequences. Bennett Salvay, multi-award winning for his work on TV's Providence (1999), has contributed a most diverse score, recorded by the Czech Film Orchestra of Prague and ranging from baroque-like string ensembles, to full orchestra "climaxing" with a pounding supposedly inspirational anthem, which is more than a bit too much. Along the way there is one truly woeful musical section accompanying Dan's destruction of his trophy collection, utilising the Celtic-type wailing of Ms Christine Navarro, who unfortunately resurfaces during the final credits. However, the music is generally sparsely used and the more effective for this.
By no means a great film, Peaceful Warrior is a worthwhile film. Although it says nothing new, it makes positive statements that bear repeating. Many have found the book and the movie a moving spiritual experience, with the book generally considered more successful than the film. That is a subjective personal assessment, but, at the very least, the film does provide food for some reflection on what is important in life, and that is no small achievement for any work whatever the art form. In addition, it is an entertaining and engrossing film, well made, well acted, beautiful looking, great sounding and with some fine action sequences. Well worth a look.
Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.
The video transfer of this movie is excellent.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.
Again it is very satisfying to find excellent use of the wide "scope" image, in intimate as well as sequences larger in scope - such as the accident sequence.
The transfer is brilliantly sharp and clear throughout, providing a very satisfactory viewing experience.
The image is clean and crisp, with virtually no grain.
Shadow detail is excellent, outstandingly so in the night sequences around the gas station, whether the skies are luminously black or everything is shrouded in mist.
There is no low level noise.
Colour is most attractive, deep and rich. The reds and blues are particularly brilliant.
Skin tones, as in the frequent huge close ups, are superb, although Scott Malcowicz's lips are at times remarkably pink.
There were no MPEG artefacts noted, and there were no film artefacts.
There are no subtitles.
The layer change occurs at 87:26 and is extremely smooth.
Video Ratings Summary
The audio is excellent, dynamic and full of surround effects.
There is one audio track : English Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 Kbps.
The dialogue was always totally natural and intelligible.
There were no drop-outs and no sync problems.
There was considerable movement across the fronts, and the surrounds were used extensively for ambient sounds as well as in major sequences. The wee small hours scenes were enhanced by the frequent use of very subtle environmental noise, such as a distant dog barking, a train faintly heard and the falling rain. The gym scenes had a great echoing ambience - very effective.
A more dynamic use of the surrounds was made during the motorbike sequences and to enhance the extra-sensory experiences.
The subwoofer channel contributed largely to the film, particularly in the "spiritual" sequences.
This is an extremely dynamic soundtrack, surprisingly so considering the nature of the film.
The score was generally appealing and supportive of the images on screen, with the exceptions of the Celtic-like vocal and the over-the-top inspirational passages. Everything is beautifully recorded and reproduced, making exceptional use of the surrounds and the subwoofer channel.
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
Once again there is very little offered on the local release.
Menu The Main Menu is presented with animated rain and audio of the theme from the film. The menu is presented 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 224 Kbps.
The options presented are : Play Feature
Scene Selection : There are twenty-eight thumbnailed cues presented on five screens, without animation or audio.
Extras : These are limited to the interviews detailed below.
There is a "Play All" option or individual interviews may be selected.
No interviewer is seen, so we get the answers but not the questions. There is nothing outstanding here at all, with the questions you would expect getting the answers you would expect.
Scott Mechlowicz (04:29) : Filmed "on set" in the gas station.
Amy Smart (04:47)
Nick Nolte (03:55)
Dan Millman (02:50)
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 release misses out on these extras:
Deleted Scenes (09:24) : Six deleted scenes.
Extended Scenes (05:01) : Four more similar to what is contained above.
The Journey (25:05) : A documentary about the creation of the film, and the book's journey to the screen.
Developing Your Warrior (11:11) : A collection of interviews which probably includes what is on the Region 4 release.
Book to Screen : This has fourteen text passages from the book that are linked to the appropriate scenes from the film.
Music Video (03:39) : Michelle Featherstone's music video which includes scenes from the film.
Subtitles : Descriptive English for the Hearing Impaired,Spanish and French.
The Region 1 release misses out on nothing.
Any fan of this film would obviously prefer the version containing the almost one hour of extras, which sound interesting and informative.
I guess this is a "must see" if you are a lover of the book. For others, like me, it is a well made movie which offers realistic and attainable paths towards a more fulfilled life - whether you accept the more supernatural aspects or not. Hopeful, hope filled, well produced, well acted, and looking and sounding first rate.
© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Friday, August 01, 2008
|DVD||Onkyo-SP500, using Component output|
|Display||Philips Plasma 42FD9954/69c.
Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player.
Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
|Speakers||VAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)|