The River Wild

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Details At A Glance

Category Action/Thriller Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1994 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 106:49 Other Extras Biographies - Cast & Crew
Production Notes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (51:48)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Curtis Hanson

Columbia TriStar
Starring Meryl Streep
Kevin Bacon
David Strathairn
Joseph Mazello
John C Reilly
RRP $34.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Polish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Czech (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No

Plot Synopsis

    Meryl Streep stars as Gail, a teacher at a school for the deaf, and shakily married to architect Tom (David Strathairn). It's their son's birthday, and Gail is determined to take Roarke (Joseph Mazello) rafting down her favourite river before it is destroyed by progress. What is supposed to be a family event turns sour when they meet up with Wade (Kevin Bacon) and Terry (John C Reilly) at the ranger station at the river. They just happen to have robbed the local cattle sale of its proceeds and are using the river as a getaway, which involves running The Gauntlet, a particularly treacherous set of rapids that is off limits to all. Of course, Gail is one of the very few people to have run The Gauntlet, having been a guide on the river in her younger days. Wade connives to "coerce" Gail and the family to take Terry and him (plus $250,000) through The Gauntlet when their original guide decides to up and leave them on the river bank. What follows is a quite absorbing thrill ride down the river towards the ultimate destiny with The Gauntlet.

    Whilst the basic premise of the story is quite original, what really makes the whole film work is the wonderful setting in the Rockies and the hands on approach from the cast. This comes across as totally believable and even though the ending is probably a little too predictable, the little story twists along the way and the river itself keeps the interest level very high. The performances of the cast are very strong indeed, and the whole thing has been well crafted by director Curtis Hanson. Meryl Streep comes across completely convincing and it is difficult to believe that she does not do this sort of rafting all the time in real life.

Transfer Quality


   From the very opening credits sequence, you get the feeling that this is going to be a top quality transfer. Water is very difficult to transfer well and they have done a superlative job in this transfer, and this is demonstrated by the opening credits. Had it not been for some minor aliasing, this would have been amongst the very best transfers I have seen.

   The transfer is at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.

   Overall, the transfer is superbly sharp and wonderfully detailed, with no loss of focus even during the white water sequences on the river. Shadow detail is very good indeed, and this is superlative stuff indeed.

    Colours are beautifully rendered, and wonderfully vibrant. Some may argue about the lack of vividness in the distance shots of The Rockies, but to my mind the transfer wonderfully captures the muted distance look that I remember well of the area. There is no hint of oversaturation and this comes across as a completely natural balance of the colour throughout.

    There were no MPEG artefacts noted. Video artefacts comprised some very minor aliasing, and most noticeably some foreground shimmer at 77:27; this is the only significant problem in the transfer, but even this is not that distracting. No other video artefacts were noted. This is quite a clean transfer and there were very few film artefacts to disturb the enjoyment of the film.

    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change at 51:48. The change is barely noticeable and is not at all disruptive to the film.


    The audio transfer is quite superb throughout, and is one of the most natural soundtracks I have heard on DVD.

    There are seven audio tracks on the DVD. The default is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, the other options being: German Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound, Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound, French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound, Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround sound, Polish Dolby Digital 2.0 and Czech Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to the English default.

    The dialogue was very clear and easy to understand at all times.

    Audio sync was not a problem with the transfer at all.

     The music score by Jerry Goldsmith is quite superb and complemented the film very well indeed. This is a fine example of one of the better film music composers around, and exhibits some of the best atmosphere music you will ever hear in a film. This is one occasion that I truly regret not having a separate music soundtrack.

     The surround channels were well used during the film, especially during the sequences through the various rapids. The balance was pretty well spot on throughout and there is some wonderful detail in the soundtrack. This is demonstrated again in the opening credits - check out the train horn - and continues throughout the film.

   The bass channel was a very active during the rapids sequences of the film, but at no stage did this become overpowering.


    After the quality of the audio and video transfers, the collection of extras is a little on the ordinary side.


    A very plain menu, lacking any form of enhancement whatsoever. As is fairly typical of Universal, it is again somewhat difficult to determine which is the highlighted icon in the menu.


   Nicely detailed biographies of the main cast and director, with some quite detailed filmographies.

Production notes

   Some quite extensive notes that are both informative and legible. These particularly highlight the difficulties faced with filming on the river and the degree of accuracy strived for.

R4 vs R1

    It would appear that there is no difference between the Region 1 and Region 4 releases (which seems to be quite common for Universal releases thus far), so the deciding factor would have to be the superior resolution of PAL compared to NTSC, making the Region 4 release the better choice.


    Overall, this is a quite absorbing film on a quite superb disc, marred only by very minor video problems. This is so good that I am very loathe not to give it five stars for both audio and video, despite these minor video problems. The quality on offer here deserves the accolade, and Universal certainly are demonstrating (generally) a very good quality in their widescreen presentations. Add this one to your collection and you should not be disappointed.

    The overall video quality is very good indeed, with only a few minor problems denying this reference stature.

     The audio quality is superb, and represents one of the best atmospheric soundtracks out at the moment.

    The extras were not exactly thrilling, but at least an effort is made.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
2nd September 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL