The Beast (1988)

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Released 21-Aug-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Trailer-Casualties Of War; From Here To Eternity
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1988
Running Time 105:19
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Kevin Reynolds
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring George Dzundza
Jason Patric
Stephen Baldwin
Steven Bauer
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $24.95 Music Mark Isham


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Arabic
Bulgarian
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

   Does anyone really have much of a clue about the invasion of Afghanistan by the Russians from 1979 to 1989 except that the Mujahadeen were funded by the CIA and left high and dry after the war finished? I have heard numbers like 15,000 Russians killed and as many as a million Afghanis, but does anyone know for sure? All I know about the place is that it has lots of mountains and valleys, Rudyard Kipling once wrote about the place (not too complimentary, either) and Osama bin Laden was supposed to have got his beginnings there.

   Therefore the The Beast is set in a war I know little about, with people I know even less about, and concerns things I know nothing about. Yet for all that this simple story is a damned good movie with believable characters and some excellent acting. The story itself is about a Russian tank crew who inadvertently take a wrong turn down in a valley pass whilst heading back to base. They had just been involved in an action to ferret out the local Mujahadeen guerrillas, whose base of operations was a local village. That village has been turned into Swiss cheese by a clinical attack by several tanks. Failing to find any evidence of the guerrillas, though, the tank commander (George Dzundza) tortures and kills the local Khan for information. Receiving orders to return to base, he heads out with the other crews. As he and his tank lag behind the other tanks, he takes a wrong turn, leading them into a cul-de-sac. He and his crew find themselves hunted by the Mujahadeen guerrillas they had previously failed to locate.

   The simplicity of the story is that the larger issues of the war are not pursued. The director, Kevin Reynolds, instead concentrates totally on the insane chase. The tank crew simply seek to survive, but employ every despicable tactic they can (booby-trapping shell cases, poisoning wells) while they slowly disintegrate as a unit. The Afghanis, with their pitiful arms and munitions, chase the steel behemoth with all the stoic extremism you'd expect of fanatics, even though they have little chance of success even if they catch it.

   The storyline is enhanced by excellent performances. The stand-out is George Dzundza as Daskal, the tank's commander and an hero of the Soviet Union. He took part in the battle of Stalingrad where he destroyed Nazi tanks, but over the years he has become an even greater fanatic than his adversaries. The tank driver is Jason Patric as Koverchanko. Although he isn't quite the fanatic his commander is, he reluctantly follows orders as a good subordinate. It is only after Daskal kills one of the crew that Koverchanko begins to question his sanity. On the other side, Steven Bauer does an excellent job of playing Taj, the new village Khan after his brother is murdered by the Russians, who flings himself into the chase after the tank with little hope of success. There are other good performances put in by Stephen Baldwin, Kabir Bebi and Chaim Girafi as both sides show their willingness to stoop to any level in order to succeed. Director Kevin Reynolds makes the most of an entertaining script with some excellent scenic backdrops to produce a movie that is quite a shining example of how good a movie can be with a small budget and some dedication.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Filmed on location in Israel, director Kevin Reynolds makes good use of the open expanses and low rolling hills for an excellent backdrop to a surprisingly good storyline. The movie has a real sharpness to it which isn't degraded by any significant use of edge enhancement and makes for a very visually crisp picture.

    The movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    While much of the movie is shot in bright daylight there is a great deal of shadow detail on offer even in the darker shots, especially at night. Backgrounds are sharply in focus most of the time and even inside the tank where the light is often very murky there is still substantial detail visible. Grain is quite minimal, even when viewing blue sky. Rarely did grain intrude or become appreciable. Low level noise was not an issue.

    The colour looked a little washed out and faded at times, but this was probably intentional. The palette makes use of a wide variety of browns and yellows. Other colours are not widely used, lending a very stark effect. I could detect no chroma noise or colour bleed.

    Only a couple of minor blemishes to report in the artefacts area. At 2:36 there is a faint black line down the picture for several seconds. Small black spots are in evidence throughout the movie, although most were fleeting and only annoying on the brighter backgrounds. There is a rather strange break-up in the picture at 98:37, almost reminiscent of a 3:2 pull-down, possibly caused by the telecine.

    There are quite a few burned in subtitles on this disc when the Afghani tribesmen speak. Otherwise the optional subtitles are well placed and easy to read, even given the bright background.

    This was a single layered disc with no layer change.

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

Audio

    There are five audio tracks on this disc, English (default), French, German, Spanish and Italian all at a 192 kilobits per second bitrate in Dolby Digital 2.0 (surround encoded). I stuck exclusively to the English track which was quite reasonable given its relatively low bitrate. There is a good sound level maintained across the fronts with plenty of separation with this decent stereo soundtrack.

    No problem with the dialogue or the audio sync on this disc.

    An eerie music score by Mark Isham I assume is meant to simulate Afghani music. Since I have no frame of reference I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Still, it is excellently suited to the visual fabric being woven and even though you probably won't acknowledge the music it does add subtle elements to the movie, which is all you really need.

    There is some activity from the surround channels but nothing really noteworthy. Little immersiveness is on offer but then the soundtrack isn't exactly replete with heavy musical overtures or special effects.

   There is no subwoofer usage on this disc.

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

Extras

Trailer

    There are two trailers on this disc for Casualties of War (1:59. 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced) and From Here to Eternity (1:02, 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced and B&W). Both show plenty of artefacts and minor blemishes.

Filmographies-Cast & Crew

    Standard fare with details on Kevin Reynolds (director), Jason Patric, Stephen Baldwin and Steven Bauer.

R4 vs R1

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

    At this time this movie this movie doesn't appear to have been released in any other region, making this the disc of choice.

Summary

    A very good war story with good performances from the cast to complement a very interesting storyline. Set amidst high mountains and deep valleys, this is always entertaining and never boring, which is all you can ask of most movies.

    An excellent video presentation with few, if any, problems.

    Adequate audio that does its job and little else.

    Typical extras package, basically none.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Monday, October 14, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD5300, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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