The Truman Show (1998)

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Released 11-May-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Trailer-2
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 98:45
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (53:06) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Peter Weir
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Jim Carrey
Laura Linney
Noah Emmerich
Natascha McElhone
Holland Taylor
Ed Harris
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $39.95 Music Burkhard Dallwitz


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    "On the air ... unaware" is the tagline for The Truman Show, and it's a pretty accurate summary of the main premise of the plot, which is about reality TV taken to the extreme.

    Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) is an insurance salesman living in a seaside town called Seahaven (in reality Seaside, a planned community on the Gulf Coast near Tampa). His life epitomizes middle-class America - he has a pretty if somewhat vapid blonde wife called Meryl (Laura Linney), he lives in a nice big house with a white picket fence, he drives a Ford Taurus (the most popular sedan in the States), he has an amiable best friend that he's known since he was seven years old called Marlon (Noah Emmerich), ...

    You would think he is just an ordinary man living an ordinary life, but it's all fake, except for Truman himself. The town that he lives in - including the the sea, the sky, the sun, moon and even the stars - are in reality one gigantic TV studio ("the largest man-made structure on the planet, the only structure other that the Great Wall of China visible from outer space") and everyone around him - including his wife, his parents and even his best friend - are professional actors who play their roles in the most popular continuously running TV show in the world - "The Truman Show."

    Truman is the only one in the TV show who doesn't know that he is in a TV show, because he's been in it for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year ever since he was born - he was officially "adopted" (read - owned) by the TV studio. His whole life is captured on over 5000 hidden cameras scattered around the studio and the events in his life have been manipulated by the show's producer and director Christof (Ed Harris). The show is watched by millions all over the world who are fascinated by his natural and unscripted reactions to things that happen to him.

    The plot line revolves around Truman gradually piecing together clues that his life is not quite "normal" or "natural", together with his growing restlessness and desire to see more of the world. Also, he is still pining for his "lost love" Lauren Garland/Sylvia (Natascha McElhone) - a girl he was never even supposed to meet and yet they did against all odds.

    Truman does have a few neuroses - an abhorrence of water (because his "father" supposedly drowned after falling from a boat during a storm, and a fascination with Fiji (supposedly where "Lauren"/Sylvia has migrated to).

    Will Truman ever learn the truth? Will he be able to leave the studio and perhaps even reunite with Sylvia?

    I don't normally like actor Jim Carrey or the kind of films he stars in, but I was fascinated by The Truman Show. Australian-born director Peter Weir gives us a very tightly filmed movie that continually stretches the boundary between fantasy and reality. Unusual camera angles remind us that we are supposedly watching reality TV from hidden cameras, but this is never taken to such an extreme that the film becomes uncomfortable to watch.

    I like the subtle touches in the film - including the "fake" opening titles corresponding to the opening titles of the TV show, the obviously fake magazine titles and product names, the surreal product placement scenes, right down to the cameos of typical avid viewers of the TV show - though the depictions of the latter are somewhat unrealistic. I mean, who stays in the bath for what must be weeks on end? And surely those two old ladies can't be clutching that cute little Truman pillow 24 hours a day?

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Originally shot on 35mm film with a native aspect ratio of 1.37:1, this transfer presents the film in 16x9 enhanced widescreen format at the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (very close to the intended viewing aspect ratio of 1.85:1).

    I was initially prepared to be disappointed by the quality of the transfer, as the opening scene (0:18-0:45), featuring an "interview" with Christof, seemed to be somewhat grainy and slightly soft, with mild shimmering around the bottom of the frames of his glasses.

    However, the quality of the transfer improves markedly as the film progresses, to the point where I will say this is one of the best transfers I have ever seen, period. The detail and colour saturation is pretty much perfect, and there are no MPEG artefacts to be seen, probably because the DVD authors have decided not to skimp on the transfer rate by spreading the relatively short film (under 100 minutes) over two layers instead of cramming everything onto one layer.

    The colours of the daytime scenes are very bright and natural-looking, with the sunset scenes looking suitably glorious. The black levels in the night-time scenes are quite good. Sharpness is excellent, showing lots of detail with no evidence of edge enhancement at all. An example of the superb detail present in this transfer is the close-up of the insurance application form around 6:04 - the small print is just readable on a good display. All in all, this is pretty much a demo quality video transfer.

    The film source is relatively clean, apart from slight grain during the opening scene (as mentioned earlier). There is a rather large mark on the left half of the frame around 51:23. Film-to-video artefacts are limited to minor shimmering here and there, and a rather bad case of moiré patterns on Truman's night-shirt from 67:21 to 68:32.

    There is one subtitle track on this disc - English - and it's pretty average as subtitle tracks go.

    As mentioned earlier, this is a single sided dual layer disc (RSDL) and the layer change occurs just before Chapter 15 at 53:06. This is a somewhat annoying change as the freeze on Marlon hugging Meryl is quite noticeable. As there is a scene change going into Chapter 15, I wonder if they could have timed it a split second later, say at a blank frame or something.

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 disc, English Dolby Digital 5.1 mastered at the higher bitrate of 448 Kb/s. In general, I am reasonably satisfied with the quality of the audio track, which is definitely above average.

    Dialogue is very easy to understand at all times, and there are no audio synchronization issues. The soundtrack sounds quite rich-bodied and natural-sounding, with a good balance between dialogue, background music and ambient effects.

    A bonus for me is the inclusion of music composed by the famous "minimalist" composer Philip Glass in some of the key scenes, notably excerpts from two of his musical scores for other films (Powaqqatsi and Mishima). Philip actually has a cameo role in the film, as he is captured playing the piano in the background in 66:55-67:05.

The only disappointment for me is the relative under-utilization of the rear surround channels and subwoofer. Whilst this is not an action film, and the surround speakers are utilized occasionally for ambience and music, I think in general the soundtrack is very front-focused, even during scenes where you would have expected a more enveloping soundfield, such as during the artificially generated storm intended to force Truman to turn back when he is on the sail boat.

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

Extras

    This is a bare bones disc with minimal extras, which is a pity since there is presumably lots of potential bandwidth left on the dual layered disc. The menus are pretty basic and are non-16x9 enhanced.

Trailers

    There is a teaser trailer (1:40) presented in Pan & Scan with Dolby Digital 2.0 - this looks more like a TV spot than a full length trailer. We also get the theatrical trailer (2:21) presented in 1.85:1 with no 16x9 enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding. Both trailers are about average in terms of video and audio quality.

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 misses out on:     The Region 1 version misses out on:     Looks like the clear winner is Region 4.

Summary

    The Truman Show is a brilliant piece of film making featuring a very subdued Jim Carrey as the unwitting hero of a TV show. It is presented on a DVD with an excellent video transfer that is close to demo quality and an above average audio track, but is sadly lacking in substantial extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Monday, May 28, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (203cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3300
SpeakersFront left/right: B&W DM603; centre: B&W CC6S2, rear left/right: B&W DM601

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Comments (Add)
Annoying Product Placement? - snaketide
Absolutely beautiful transfer - Andrew
1:66 - Kram