Rules of Engagement (2000)

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Released 31-Jan-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Canyon
Featurette-Behind the Rules Of Engagement
Audio Commentary-William Friedkin (Director)
Featurette-Rules Of Engagement-A Look Inside
Theatrical Trailer
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 122:15
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (76:33) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By William Friedkin
Studio
Distributor
Seven Arts
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Tommy Lee Jones
Samuel L. Jackson
Guy Pearce
Bruce Greenwood
Blair Underwood
Philip Baker Hall
Anne Archer
Ben Kingsley
Case C-Button-Version 1
RPI $34.95 Music Mark Isham


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/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 for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     It is 1968 and two squads of U.S marines are on patrol in the rain forest region of Ca Lu, Vietnam. The two squad leaders are Hayes Hodges (Tommy Lee Jones) and Terry Childers (Samuel L. Jackson), friends since boot camp and both fine leaders of men. The two squads split up, with the squad led by Hayes moving to swampland some distance away while Childers squad continues along the current route. Childers encounters a small group of Vietcong soldiers who have stopped while their commander, Colonel Cao (Baoan Coleman), talks on the radio. The Americans sneak towards their enemy but are spotted and firing begins. Overwhelmed by superior numbers, the Vietcong commander and his radio operator are taken prisoner. Meanwhile, Hayes and his squad are wading through swampland as they continue to patrol. Unfortunately, the bulk of the Vietcong soldiers are waiting there to ambush him. The marines are taking heavy casualties with Hayes being one of them. He is badly injured and on the radio calling his colleague for assistance. Knowing that his men cannot cover the distance to the swamp in time, Childers threatens to kill the Vietnamese radio operator unless Colonel Cao calls off the attack. With time running out for his friend and his squad, Childers executes the radio operator and then threatens Cao directly. His life threatened, Colonel Cao agrees to call off the attack.

    Jump to the present. Hayes, now a colonel, is about to retire after many years of service behind a desk in the marines legal department. At his retirement party, his old friend and now a colonel himself, Terry Childers is there to make the presentation. Childers tells Hayes of his next mission. He is to ship out to the Middle East as the leader of the marines stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Wake Island. While on patrol, Childers and his men are called to San'a, the capital city of Yemen where a demonstration at the American embassy has become violent. His orders are to protect the staff and to evacuate them if necessary. Direct confrontation with the Yemeni citizens is to be avoided. Childers arrives at the embassy to find that the demonstration is out of control and that the ambassador and his family require evacuation. Snipers are firing into the building and some of his men are killed as they try and take cover on the roof. Childers goes onto the roof where he too is shot and injured. He looks at the crowd below, which includes women and children and then commands his second, Captain Lee (Blair Underwood), to open fire. Captain Lee questions the order as he has seen women and children in the crowd, but Childers insists and so he and his men open fire. It's a blood bath as the protesters are shot to pieces by the marines.

   The media is quick to publish graphic images of slain women and children and the U.S. is faced with a major image crisis which falls to National Security Advisor William Sokal (Bruce Greenwood) to resolve. He feels that it is in the best interests of himself and the U.S. government for the blame for this incident to be directed at an individual, and who better to take the fall than the man who gave the order to open fire. Sokal takes this approach even though he is presented with evidence which proves that Childers was justified in firing upon the crowd. On his return to America, Childers is arrested and charged with several offences including murder. He turns to the only man he can trust, his old buddy Hayes Hodges for help. The government wants a conviction and so calls in their top gun, a crack lawyer named Major Mark Biggs (Guy Pearce) to handle the case and so begins the David vs Goliath battle for justice.

   This is a well-written script that is quite compelling and easy to watch. It is of a high standard and reminds me of the movie Courage Under Fire. The performance of Samuel L. Jackson is very good and Tommy Lee Jones is excellent. I should warn you that this is an American film about the American military that contains its fair share of chest beating and flag waving. If this sort of thing annoys you then perhaps you should avoid this film. I would encourage you to look past this however, as this is a solid film and definitely worth a rental.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD contains a very good 2.35:1 (measured), 16x9 enhanced video transfer that will surely please all who choose to watch this disc.

    The sharpness of this transfer is excellent for almost the entire movie, but it was spoilt by a short period in which the camera operator appears to have lost focus. Perhaps the actor wasn't in the spot that he said he would be when the scene was measured - either way Guy Pearce is clearly out of focus during the period 48:35-48:49. At all other times the image sharpness and level of detail presented on-screen is very good indeed. See 01:33-02:09, 08:51-08:52, 29:17-29:34 and 110:31-110:53 for some excellent examples. Edge enhancement has been used and is noticeable at times. I've noted a couple of examples for you to sample for yourselves. One is at 08:56-09:09 and the other at 40:52-41:09. The black level in this film is excellent. There aren't really any night scenes in this film but those that occur in dimly lit rooms or deeply shaded areas show a very good level of detail.

    The colour saturation in this transfer is very good. Strong colours, such as those in the American flag, are clear and strong without being overpowering while skin tones are excellent.

    MPEG artefacts are present in this transfer, in the form of pixelization, but are not a real problem. Pixelization occurs during some of the court scenes. See 87:05-91:40 for an example. The pixelization is minor and can only be seen against the wall behind the actors. Film-to-video artefacts are restricted to some minor aliasing. The worst examples I saw can be found at 14:15-14:27, 18:45-18:51, 50:30-50:36 and 81:30-81:44. Film artefacts are very rare and very small. I've noted one example of film artefacts for you - see 46:21-46:25. There is some noticeable camera bounce during the scene in which Childers and Hayes are walking in the woods discussing the nature of the modern military. This problem can be seen at 12:28-12:56.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change occurring at 76:33. It is one of the best I've seen. It is placed on a quick cut to Anne Archer as she sits in court with her head bowed and is very fast indeed.

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

Audio

    There are three audio tracks present on this disc. All are English. One is the main English soundtrack which is blessed with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio encoded at 448 Kb/s. The other audio tracks consist of an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack complete with 384 Kb/s bit rate and an English Audio Commentary with a Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at 256 Kb/s. I listened to the main Dolby Digital 5.1 track, the audio commentary and sampled the surround track as well.

    This audio transfer is very very close to reference quality with only one minor flaw which prevents it from attaining top marks. It is a superb example of what a home theatre audio track should be. Bravo, Roadshow Home Entertainment! I was delighted to see that the Dolby Digital audio track on this disc is encoded at 448 Kb/s. I hope that the distributors of DVDs in Australia can continue to present discs with this bitrate for their Dolby Digital audio.

   Dialogue is always clear and always in sync but one short passage of minor distortion was present during the period 12:47-12:57.

    The score for this film is by Mark Isham and while no standout is well suited to the film. It has a very military and dramatic sound to it but despite this is very subtle and is only used sparsely.

    This is an excellent audio track in which the surrounds are almost constantly used. They are a major feature in the action sequences and add ambience to the quieter scenes such as those that take place in the courtroom. Standout examples of their use in the action sequences can be heard at 04:08-05:00, 15:22-15:35 and 17:40-28:27. Standout examples of their use for ambience can be heard at 02:00-02:34, 03:02-03:20, 05:17-08:05 and 63:30-64:10. Split channel effects are used in many places such as at 63:30-64:10 where flies are buzzing from one channel to the next. I was very impressed with the surround use in this movie. It is a top class effort.

   The subwoofer is also used very effectively to support the action sequences. Its use is totally appropriate and well balanced so as to add impact to the on-screen action without overpowering it. Good examples of this can be found at  04:08-04:44, 05:17-07:26, 15:22-15:32 and 17:27-17:32.

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

Extras

    There is a solid collection of extras available on this disc.

Featurette - Behind The Rules Of Engagement (23:35)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of what I roughly measured as 2.00:1, this 16x9 enhanced featurette is quite good.

    The video transfer is of good quality with the interview segments having a good level of detail and strong colour. Behind-the-scenes footage is clear but suffers badly from aliasing at times. Segments taken from the film itself also suffer from aliasing and some pixelization as well as having less sharpness than that of the film itself.

    The audio for this featurette is Dolby Digital 2.0 surround and is always clear and easy to understand. The surrounds carry a recessed music track rather than any effects for the action sequences. I thought this audio mix was quite clever as the open soundscape, due to the dramatic music in the surrounds, makes this featurette a much more involving 23 minutes than it might have otherwise been.

    Overall I thought this offering a step above many of these sorts of extras due mainly to the amount of behind-the-scenes footage.

Featurette - Rules Of Engagement - A Look Inside (13:05)

    The focus of this featurette is interviews. The main cast members are featured as well as director William Friedkin and writer Jim Webb. Webb is a Vietnam veteran and the former Secretary of the US Navy. He, according to Friedkin, is the reason why the military characters in this movie are so well defined.

   The video transfer for this particular extra is 16x9 enhanced with an aspect ratio of approximately 2.00:1. The quality of this featurette is basically the same as that found in the Behind The Rules Of Engagement extra. There were some of what looked like analogue tape tracking errors during an interview segment with Samuel L. Jackson that I didn't see during the other featurette. These errors only occur during this 20 or so second segment and occur high to the right of the picture away from the actor.

    The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded although only the centre channel is used. The dialogue is always clear and as this featurette is all about interviews the lack of other channels is not an issue. There is always the option of switching to stereo mode if a more open sound is desired.

    A solid offering but for me less interesting than the other featurette.

Audio Commentary - William Friedkin (Director)

     This is a very interesting commentary track and worth listening to. While there are short periods of silence, Friedkin does offer a lot of information as he addresses the on-screen action from a story point of view as well as from a technical point of view. He talks a lot about the motivations of the characters as well as what they are feeling. He also talks about how this film was shaped by the reaction of test audiences to the various cuts they were shown.

Original Theatrical Trailer (02:22)

     The video for the release trailer is 16x9 enhanced and has an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is a little less colourful and softer than the main feature but is still of good quality. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 and again is of good quality.

Biographies - Cast and Crew

    Biographies for actors Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley and Anne Archer are included in this section as is a biography for director William Friedkin. There is quite a bit of career information presented as well as a filmography for each.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 version of this film is well thought of by the two reviews that I read for it.

   The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:      Unless you have a particular desire for a French audio track there is little to tempt one away from the local product. I would take the Region 4 version for its superior resolution, due to PAL and the lack of the dreaded pull-down artefact that you see on NTSC transfers.

Summary

     Rules Of Engagement is a very good film with excellent acting, exciting action sequences and good courtroom scenes.

    The video transfer is excellent and only marred by small flaws which aren't particularly distracting.

    The audio transfer is superb and only just falls short of reference quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Richardson (read my bio)
Wednesday, January 24, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayGrundig MW82-50/8. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2801
SpeakersMains and Rears: Tannoy Mercury M1. Centre: Tannoy Mercury MC. Subwoofer: Aaton SUB-120.

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