Overall | Insomnia (2002) | The Insider (1999) | The Recruit (2003)

Al Pacino Collection 2 (Insomnia/The Insider/The Recruit) (1999)

Al Pacino Collection 2 (Insomnia/The Insider/The Recruit) (1999)

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Released 1-Mar-2004

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Overall Package

    Triple packs are the film distributors way of palming off the ugly step-sisters with Cinderella. Give them one good film and they won't notice the funny smell generated by the other or several others.

In this case fans of "shouty Al" get three of his late 90's early 2000's films packaged in their original cases and delivered in a nice box. So where is the dud?

It's certainly not The Insider the 7 times Oscar nominated flick where Al plays the investigative journalist struggling with his conscience and the networks over the manipulation of a whistleblower. Al is at the top of his game and Russell Crowe gets one of his finest roles to date. Fans of Al demand a good enraged speech and The Insider doesn't disappoint with the "we draw him out" rant one of Als best.

It's not in Insomnia either. This taut, precise remake of the Scandanavian original is engaging through an through. Al is the frayed LAPD detective, under investigation for planting evidence, sent to Alaska to investigate the murder of a prostitute. With a soul crisis haunting his nights and a sun that never sets Al struggles to catch the killer. Whilst some fans are more enamoured of the original there is no doubt that director Christopher Nolan made the film as un-Hollywood as possible.

If it is not those then The Recruit must be the dud. Not so fast. This film may have secured the worst notices of the three but it plays out remarkably well on the small screen and is ideal Friday night fare. Think of it as the quirky cousin rather than the ugly step-sister. Al plays the CIA man recruiting and training Colin Farrell. It is a mind game flick with just one or two twists too many.

These three films are all identical to the DVD releases previously reviewed by our site and detailed below.

In short, a varied and suprisingly good collection of films which will not only keep Pacino fans happy but, for a decent price, will satisfy just about anyone looking to plug gaps in their DVD collection.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, December 19, 2008
Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Insomnia (2002) | The Insider (1999) | The Recruit (2003)

Insomnia (2002)

Insomnia (2002)

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Released 1-Sep-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Menu Audio
Interviews-Cast & Crew-A conversation with ChristopherNolan(Dir)and Al Pacino (Act)
Featurette-Making Of-"Day for Night: The Making of Insomnia"
Featurette
Featurette-"In The Fog" Nathan Crowley, Production Designer
Audio Commentary-Scene specific, by cast and crew
Featurette-"Eyes Wide Open" - documentary about insomnia
Gallery-Photo-Promotional Material
Additional Footage-Deleted scenes with commentary
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 113:20
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (71:41) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Christopher Nolan
Studio
Distributor
Alcon Entertainment
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Al Pacino
Robin Williams
Hilary Swank
Maura Tierney
Martin Donovan
Nicky Katt
Paul Dooley
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $36.95 Music David Julyan


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Dutch
French
Norwegian
Danish
Swedish
Finnish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, "ViewSonic" jumps out at me every time.
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    This is the retail release of Insomnia. You can read my review of the rental release here. For the sake of saving mouse clicks, I have repeated the rental plot synopsis here.

    This movie is a re-make of a 1997 Norwegian film of the same name, starring Stellan Skarsgard. While I have not seen that film, I have been led to believe that this adaptation quite closely follows the plot lines, but alters the motives of the characters. When Christopher Nolan, fresh from much critical success with his previous film Memento, was sent a tape of Insomnia and the offer to direct a re-make, he jumped at the opportunity. As well as a talented director, this movie boasts Hilary Swank, Robin Williams, and Al Pacino as the lead cast, making it a very interesting film even before exposing any negative.

    Set in the fictional town of Nightmute, Alaska, the story follows LA detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino) who has been sent, along with his partner Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan), to the sleepy Alaskan town to help out the local detectives - who usually encounter nothing more troublesome than drunks - on the case of a brutal bashing murder of a teenage girl. Initially things seem to go well: Dormer guides the locals in setting a trap for the killer, who shows up right on queue, but that is when it all starts to go wrong. In the very thick fog, Dormer does something that he will come to regret. Blaming his actions on the escaped killer, Dormer continues to work the case of the murdered girl, but his conscience starts to get the better of him, and between that and the 24-hour daylight - the midnight sun - he cannot sleep (and therein lies the title). As the days go by and sleep still eludes Dormer, local crime author Walter Finch (Robin Williams) becomes the main suspect - until he tells Dormer that he witnessed what happened in the fog, and that he wants Dormer's help to escape justice or he will talk. What should be an easy decision for Dormer is anything but, as now he has gone days without sleep. To complicate matters, the bright-eyed young detective Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank) is starting to suspect that Dormer isn't telling the whole truth.

    It is a gripping story, aided by both the utterly stunning scenery (almost every shot out-of-doors features landscapes that are simply jaw-dropping in both their harshness and beauty) and some very solid performances. This is the last in Robin Williams' "trilogy of evil" (three films in a row in which he played thoroughly nasty individuals, the other two being Death To Smoochy and One Hour Photo), although it was the first to actually hit Australian shores. It was almost as if he was building up for this role in the first two, because in this film he is the ultimate in degraded human beings - there is nothing to like about him at all. This isn't Sy from One Hour Photo who was as much a sympathetic character as a frightening and despicable one. Finch has nothing at all to sympathise with. Pacino carries the film's lead role well, although his "insomniac" doesn't really seem all that different to his normal characters, while Hilary Swank is convincing as the green detective who worships the ground Dormer walks on.

    This movie has one major problem however - the ending is a complete catastrophe. With less than five minutes to run, the film unravels completely, and we get an ending that almost seems to be a stop-gap. It is as if the writers simply could not come up with a way to finish the film that was workable, so we have the tacked on rubbish that is there now. It is a real let-down that takes away from from the previous hundred minutes of excellent work.

    This is a film that bears repeated viewings well, offering something new to discover each time. An interesting twist is that the film's final scene (after the train-wreck of an ending has done its damage) is an expertly woven journey along the line between tragic and up-lifting, finally restoring faith in the human spirit. If all this is not incentive enough to re-watch the movie, then the stunning scenery at least makes it a visually enjoyable journey.

    Overall Insomnia is very much worth seeing. It is really just a very bright film-noir. See it for the breathtaking scenery, the good story, and the solid performances. Enjoy it for its attention to detail and ability to compose scenes that are very memorable. Just don't be disappointed by the ending - you have been warned!

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The rental version of Insomnia is a single-layered disc, while this retail-release is a dual-layered effort. The advantages of the extra space are obvious. This transfer is of excellent quality, and is easily the best Buena Vista transfer in quite some time, including the rental version of this film. Given that Buena Vista have been releasing transfers that fall short (and often well short) of excellent lately, this is a nice change.

    Presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharpness is superb, displaying incredible detail and helping to bring out the majesty of the stunning backdrops to the drama. The smaller actions of the characters are also conveyed without issue, and there is plenty of fine detail visible. In general there is very little in the way of grain. During the chase in the fog from 28:00 it does become quite obvious, but it is never to the point of being distracting, unlike the rental transfer. Shadow detail is also excellent, and the darker scenes (there are surprisingly many, despite the fact that the entire movie takes place during the "day") have good depth and clarity. There is no low level noise present.

    Colours are also excellent. The stark white-blues of the ice fields are well contrasted by the lush greens of the forested landscape. The blue of the police cars and the infrequent colour highlights also come across without any problems. The overall effect is to give the film a very picturesque quality.

    There is some pixelation on the grain during the fog-chase sequence, but other than that, compression artefacts are non existent. There is a small amount of aliasing, much less than in the rental transfer, with items such as the plane wings from 3:08 to 3:15 and the filing cabinet from 71:57 to 72:00, producing some fairly obvious shimmering, but in general it is not distracting. There are no film artefacts at all.

    The subtitles are quite disappointingly different from the spoken dialogue. Since this is a drama, not much in the way of plot information is lost, but there are many whole sentences that simply do not appear in the subtitles.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change taking place at 71:41, between chapters 21 and 22. It is quite well placed on a scene change, although still noticeable due to the audio dropout. As a final note, the chapter list on the inside cover of the DVD is incorrect. It lists 17 chapters in the movie, while in actual fact there are 31. The 17 chapter list would appear to be the rental chapter list, which was not changed for the retail slick of the movie (although the features box on the back cover was added).

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

Audio

    This audio transfer is very good - generally quiet and reserved for the most part, but more intense when necessary. It delivers a subtle mix that probably won't be used as your next demo disc, but will still impress those who listen carefully.

    There are two audio tracks available for selection, namely the original English dialogue and a French dub, both presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps. The additional audio commentary tracks are not available while watching the feature, due to the nature of their presentation.

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times. This film has incredible dynamic range, from quiet sleeplessness to ringing gunshots, and uses sound design very specifically to place the audience in the mind of Al Pacino's character - the soundtrack represents all these nuances without any problems. Audio sync is spot on throughout the transfer and is never an issue.

    The score is credited to David Julyan, and it is an extremely effective one. Having worked for director Christopher Nolan on many of his previous projects, he is able to balance the on-screen themes with the music perfectly, making the film both a visual and aural journey.

    Surround activity is not particularly dynamic, but what activity is present is used to good effect. Some ambience, such as the rattles of the plane journey and the hollow echoes of the tunnel under the cabin, are carried through the surrounds. They are also used to carry the score and some particularly unsettling sound effects, as well as the occasional directional effect.

    The subwoofer has little to do, only backing up the score from time to time and kicking in for gunshots and crashing logs, but for the most part it sits idle. This is not the fault of the transfer, as the film contains very few deep bass effects.

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

Extras

    After the rental edition of Insomnia, a disc that contained only the film, not even a trailer or a bio, this retail version is a welcome change. Indeed, what a change it is - this disc is packed with extras and leaves almost nothing untouched. Also note that the back cover of the disc does not list most of these extras, but instead lists their sub-menu, e.g. Production Diaries.

Menu

    The menu is 16x9 enhanced, animated, themed around the movie, and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Featurette: 180°: A Conversation With Christopher Nolan And Al Pacino (17:11)

    This is an interesting twist on the normal interview segment, with director Christopher Nolan and star Al Pacino essentially interviewing each other. Topics of discussion range from Pacino's inspiration for Scarface to Nolan's directing technique. It is very much worth watching. Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Featurette: Day For Night: The Making Of Insomnia (7:57)

    This is far more interesting than your usual "making-of", discussing a number of aspects of the production instead of a round of back-slapping. Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Featurette: In The Fog: Wally Pfister, Nathan Crowley (6:11,5:48)

    Although listed twice on the menu, this is actually the one featurette (or more accurately, a collection of behind the scenes footage) with a choice of two voice-over options - director of photography Wally Pfister, and production designer Nathan Crowley. The two talk about both the footage specifically and the production in general from their own perspectives. Again, well worth watching. Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

Audio Commentary - Christopher Nolan (Director) (102:16)

    This commentary is a little different to the usual type of audio commentary. Using the branching abilities of DVD, the movie is played in the order it was filmed, while director Christopher Nolan delivers his commentary. The commentary itself is very interesting, as Nolan talks almost continuously about a wide range of topics, including his theories on theme and action, the visual decisions made, and the reasons for certain plot points. The presentation of the movie in production order makes this commentary even more interesting, as it is fascinating to see exactly where the actors have to take themselves on different days.

Audio Commentary - Hilary Swank (Actor), Hillary Seitz(Screenwriter), Wall Pfister (Director Of Photography), Nathan Crowley (Production Designer), Dody Dorn (Editor) (39:55)

    Despite the number of participants, this commentary does not actually last any where near the running time of the film. As with the director's commentary track, this one uses branching to play particular scenes for particular commentators. Despite this, the comments are mostly not screen-specific, and are more like extended interviews with the participants (apart from Hillary Swank, who has little to say). Not quite as interesting as the director's commentary, but a welcome addition in any regard.

Featurette: Eyes Wide Open (7:30)

    This short featurette covers the very real topic of insomnia, interviewing some sufferers, as well as a number of professionals in the field of sleep research. Very interesting. Presented at 1.78:1, and 16x9 enhanced (which is strange as all the other featurettes on this disc are non-16x9 enhanced at 1.33:1), and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Additional Scene (3:04)

    This additional scene, available with or without a director's commentary, takes place in the motel where Dormer is staying, and is a lengthy conversation with Maura Tierney's character that gives a large dose of Dormer's history. While it was a good scene, director Christopher Nolan states in his commentary that it was taken out as it did not fit the character, which seems to have been a wise decision. Presented at 2.35:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio for both options.

Promotional Materials: From The Evidence Room

    This is a two and a half minute sequence of still photographs, including behind the scenes shots, promotional material, and movie stills. Given all the other inclusions on the disc, this one seems quite pointless.

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 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     I owe Buena Vista an apology. With the rental version I handed them a serve for dishing up another Christopher Nolan movie without any extras, but this time around they have really delivered. Buena Vista have brought across virtually all the extras from the Region 1 version of this disc (certainly all the important ones), to make this comparison a tie.

Summary

    Insomnia is a good film with a great performance from Al Pacino, and some superb visuals. A very good remake.

    The video quality is excellent, with very good detail and excellent representation of the spectacular landscapes.

    The audio quality is also excellent, presenting a subtly enveloping soundscape that really aids the film.

    The extras are extensive and very interesting - a very good overall package. Note that, in what seems to be a rather strange decision, the majority of the extras are not listed on the back cover of the DVD, but rest assured that they are there.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Thursday, September 25, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-555K, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersRochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)

Other Reviews
AllZone4DVD - Toan B
DVD Net - Jules F

Comments (Add)
Packaging - Sum Whan
Nolan's Commentary - Anonymous

Overall | Insomnia (2002) | The Insider (1999) | The Recruit (2003)

The Insider (1999)

The Insider (1999)

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Released 29-Nov-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Featurette
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 151:32
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (75:57) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Michael Mann
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Al Pacino
Russell Crowe
Christopher Plummer
Diane Venora
Philip Baker Hall
Lindsay Crouse
Debi Mazar
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music Lisa Gerrard
Peter Bourke


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Hebrew
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) is a reporter for 60 Minutes. Jeffrey Wygand (Russell Crowe) was a senior chemist at a large tobacco company, but he has just been sacked for disagreeing with management. Lowell approaches Jeffrey and asks him to look at an internal report from another cigarette company. Lowell wants to get a professional opinion on the content and its legitimacy.

    After looking over the internal report, Jeffrey advises Lowell that he has no problem discussing the content of the report, but he can't discuss any areas outside of the report because of a confidentiality agreement he has signed. This piques Lowell's curiosity as to what Jeffrey can't say.

    When Jeffrey's old company learns that he is talking to a 60 Minutes reporter, Jeffrey is called in for a meeting where he is basically threatened and asked to sign an even more restrictive confidentiality agreement in an effort to frighten him and stop him talking. This really annoys Jeffrey, since he had no intentions of disclosing any company secrets or breaking his confidentiality agreement.

    The rest of the story is about how Jeffrey's old company tries to stop him from talking. With superb acting by all the lead characters, this movie is pretty powerful stuff. The fact that it is based on actual events just makes it even more interesting.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The picture detail and sharpness can only be described as exemplary for both the foreground and background. Some type of low-level noise artefact is present at 100:22 - 100:27. What is strange about this artefact is that the scene is brightly-lit and only the grey building in the background is affected. No edge bleeding or excessive edge enhancement was ever noticed.

    The colour is excellent and has faithfully reproduced the original films' cinematography. The footage at around 40:30 takes on a green tinge which is because of the car's windscreen tinting and the colours exhibited in TV interview footage are skewed somewhat, but both of these effects were deliberate so in essence the colour and picture detail should be considered perfect.

    This transfer is almost totally grain free, with only three minor instances noticed; at 120:50, 123:40 and 136:50. No pixelization was seen.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen. There is some minor telecine wobble in the opening credits, but it is nothing to worry about. There isn't any aliasing as such, which is totally amazing since the picture is just so sharp and clear, but because of this sharpness you can see the lines that make up the picture structure on fine and sharply-contrasted objects, such as Russell Crowe's glasses and Al Pacino's desk phone at 105:30 - 105:39. There is some intentional hand-held camera-like footage, which is of equal quality to the rest of the movie, but it does shake a lot.

    There are quite a lot of small film artefacts. I would estimate that there is at least one every minute, but since they are almost always small they really don't disrupt the picture. This is the aspect of the transfer that was most responsible for stopping it from receiving a reference quality rating.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change occurring at 75:57 in Chapter 17 on a scene change. There is a definite pause, but it is well placed. All things considered this is a very good layer change, even though it is easily spotted.

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

Audio

    There is only one audio track on this DVD, which is an English 384Kb/s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Since there is only one soundtrack on this DVD I feel it should have used a 448Kb/s bitstream.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand throughout the movie, with only a couple of minor exceptions where the dialogue became a little harder to make out. The dialogue is perfectly integrated into the soundstage.

    No audio sync problems were noticed with this transfer. There is a brief dialogue drop-out at 56:51, but it sounded like a editing induced fault rather than a transfer one.

    Lisa Gerrard and Peter Bourke's musical score is fantastic. It really enhances the on-screen drama and tension.

    The soundtrack sounds fantastic, and sounds like it has loads of surround channel use, but this is actually not the case. The ambience actually comes from the superb sound separation in the front soundstage, which manages to create a totally convincing and enveloping sound field on many occasions with little or no additional information coming from the rear speakers. I was quite amazed at this and had to put my ear to the rear speakers on several occasions just to confirm that there was in fact little or no sound actually coming from the rear speakers. Afterwards, I put on The Matrix just to confirm that my system hadn't developed a fault!  There is still some very good surround channel use, but it is infrequent.

    The subwoofer is used frequently and superbly to add real depth to the music and effects.

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

Extras

    The extras are extremely limited, consisting of just one seven minute featurette.

Menu

    The Menu is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio and has the following selections; Chapter Selection (30), Setup, Production Featurette and Play.

Production Featurette (7:06 minutes)

    The featurette is of very good picture quality, and is your standard interviews mingled with movie footage featurette. The interviews are presented in 1:33:1 and the movie footage in 2:35:1, with a 192Kb/sec Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

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 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Even through the R1 disc has a couple more extras, I personally feel that the superior picture quality of PAL over NTSC tips the scales in the favour of the R4 disc.

Summary

    The Insider is a powerful and superbly acted movie. I found it just as riveting this time round. It is presented on a superb DVD.

    The video transfer of this movie is superb, but is not reference quality because of the number of small film artefacts.

    The audio transfer is excellent.

    The extras are extremely limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Paul Williams (read Paul's biography)
Tuesday, December 05, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-725, using Component output
DisplaySony Projector VPH-G70 (No Line Doubler), Technics Da-Lite matt screen with gain of 1.0 (229cm). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SV919THX
SpeakersFronts: Energy RVS-1 (3), Rears: Energy RVSS-1 (2), Subwoofer: Energy EPS-150 (1)

Other Reviews
The Fourth Region - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)
DVD Net - Adrian T

Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Insomnia (2002) | The Insider (1999) | The Recruit (2003)

The Recruit (2003)

The Recruit (2003)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 28-Jan-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Spy Schools: Inside The CIA Training Program
Deleted Scenes-4 +/- commentary
Audio Commentary-Roger Donaldson (Director) & Colin Farrell (Actor)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 110:19
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:47) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Roger Donaldson
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Colin Farrell
Al Pacino
Bridget Moynahan
Gabriel Macht
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.90 Music Klaus Badelt


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Czech Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Turkish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Portuguese
Dutch
Czech
Hebrew
Turkish
Croatian
Slovenian
French Titling
Czech Titling
Turkish Titling
French Audio Commentary
Portuguese Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Czech Audio Commentary
Turkish Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    James Clayton (Colin Farrell) is a successful MIT software engineering student at the height of his game. One day, at a computer conference where Clayton is making a presentation of his new hacking software, he is spotted by CIA recruiter Walter Burke (Al Pacino). Burke wants Clayton to join the espionage game and become an operative for the CIA, alluding to the fact that Clayton’s own missing father was a CIA operative lost in 1990. Before he knows it, Clayton is at The Farm – the infamous CIA training ground – thrust into a world where everything is an illusion and nobody can be trusted. Here, Clayton meets Layla (Bridget Moynahan) with whom he forms an instant attraction. But there’s more going on here than your five senses can tell. What’s a game, what’s a test, and who can be counted on in the new world of high tech espionage?

    I’m a big fan of the espionage genre, but have been less and less impressed by the latest cinematic offerings. Sure, the James Bond: 007 flicks are still fun for the comic book entertainment they offer. I’m not above being a kid for a couple of hours, and 007 is usually guaranteed to be fun in that classy Saville Row and Fleet Street kind of way. Like a glossy fashion magazine, it's always fun to skim through. But serious explorations of the world of secret intelligence gathering have become few and far between. Indeed, the British have been doing the most impressive work in the genre with the BBC series Spooks and the recent mini-series Cambridge Spies.

    The Recruit is, for the most part, a good old-fashioned espionage thriller. It is, however, unashamedly Hollywood, and lacks the cool poise of the more recent offering by director Roger Donaldson – the political thriller Thirteen Days, which was based on the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Recruit is entertainment, but without the comic book fantasy which makes the 007 films so much fun. That works to its benefit, however, and it has a lot of cute twists, even if you might sometimes outfox them before they come, and great performances by the lead cast. I must say that the more interesting scenes revolve around the sequences at The Farm, and had this film perhaps taken on a darker, more serious (and perhaps even realistic) edge it might have been truly something to behold.

    So, as it is, The Recruit sits squarely in the realm of Hollywood entertainment. That’s not a bad thing. This film is great for what it is, and you surely won’t be bored. My overall impression: good for a Friday night in with a pizza and some friends. And it has definite repeat watchability.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, this film was originally shot in 2.35:1, but just like Donaldson’s previous film Thirteen Days was cropped to 1.78:1 for DVD release. There is no panning here, however, and it is my guess that this was intentionally cropped like this. In the case of Thirteen Days it was to remove all the glaring ‘boom-in-shot’ mistakes. As to why it was done here, no clue is given.

    This is a close to perfect transfer, marred by only the faintest of low-level noise in the background on some of the not so well lit shots. This might just be the product of a grainy print, but the important thing to note is that it is in no way distracting. You really have to strain to see it, or get closer to the screen than you normally would which kind of defeats the purpose anyway.

    Colours are vibrant and rich. Flesh tones were spot on. Shadow detail was excellent. Grain was very minimal. Detail was immaculate – this was a very crisp transfer.

    I noticed a couple of white dots on the screen here and there, but nothing distracting. I saw them because I was hunting for them. My friends who I watched this film with did not notice them and told me off for being picky.

    MPEG artefacts are non-existent, and I spotted no other film-to-video artefacts.

    There are nine sets of subtitles. They are white with a black border and can be easily read.

    The dual-layer pause is at 66:47. Honestly, this is my one real quibble as I felt this could have been placed in a dozen better spots during the film. As it is, it takes place in the middle of a conversation and slightly clips the last word in a line of dialogue. That makes it a little jarring and very noticeable. Really, a shame about that.

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

Audio

    There are four 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtracks – one in English, one in French, one in Czech and one in Turkish. The foreign tracks all seemed pretty clear to me, but I will give most attention to the original English track.

    There were absolutely no problems with understanding dialogue, or any noticeable audio sync issues.

    The range was excellent – the score by Klaus Badelt working the bass and the subwoofer without reprieve.

    Surround use was again fantastic, with a lot of directional cues and use of the rears to capture ambience. Of particular note was the subway chase sequence with people criss-crossing all over the place, bumping into each other, brushing past each other, and trains going back and forth. Wow.

    The subwoofer was heavily utilised with the music, and also to add depth to explosions, gunshots, breaking furniture, vehicles – you name it. Quite impressive.

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

Extras

Menus

    All menus are presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with the theme music in 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo.

Audio Commentary – Roger Donaldson (Director) and Colin Farrell (Actor)

    Presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo. These guys play off each other pretty well. Beware, though, Farrell is talking in his native Irish and he can be a little hard to understand when he gets really animated. Donaldson definitely has an analytical edge to him, which works quite well. There aren’t many sequences of dead air here.

Featurette - “Spy School: Inside The CIA Training Program” (15:57)

    Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo. This is a look at how the CIA recruit people, and a brief look at what they go through in training scenarios. Interestingly enough, the film stays pretty true to what is displayed here.

Deleted Scenes

    Presented in 2.35:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo. There are four deleted scenes here:

    These come with additional audio commentary by Donaldson and Farrell, during which Farrell swears a lot and is censored.

R4 vs R1

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

    The R1 release of this feature includes a 5.1 DTS ES track and is THX Certified. Sorry, but R4 just doesn’t cut it in that regard.

Summary

    The Recruit is good fun if you are willing to suspend your disbelief and just go with it. My advice – it’s entertainment. Enjoy it.

    The picture is excellent.

    The sound is also fantastic, but lacking the DTS ES track available in R1.

    The extras aren’t voluminous, but they are very good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Saturday, July 26, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Jules F
AllZone4DVD - Wayne F
Web Wombat - James A

Comments (Add)
If Colin Farrell where speaking his native Irish you wouldn't understand a word he is saying. - Alex McCaffrey
Aspect ratio - Tom (read my bio)
1.77:1 Aspect Ratio - - Ben H (My biography. Go on have a read...)
re: 1.77:1 Aspect Ratio - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)