|Category||Drama||Theatrical Trailer(s)||Yes, 1 - 1.78:1, non-16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:54)|
|Year Released||1998||Commentary Tracks||No|
|Running Time||163:37 minutes||Other Extras||Melanesian Songs (11)|
Fox Home Entertainment
John C. Reilly
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||No||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Dolby Digital||5.1|
||Soundtrack Languages||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)|
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Don't ask for a synopsis of the film, though, as there really is not much of a story here. This is not so much a story-based film as a character/situational based film, with the individuals' reactions to what is going on around them being the entire basis of the film. The broad story takes place during the invasion of Guadalcanal, and concentrates on the soldiers of a single company assigned to take out a hill during the campaign aimed at capturing the island and securing the airfield as a base for US air power in the region. The absolute need to take the island means that basically any casualty rate is acceptable and the film looks at the campaign from the eyes of the various characters in the unit.
The main problem that I have with the film, and it was one that many critics appeared to have, was that the film did not really sustain its length at all well. Indeed, this is as close to an "arty" war epic as you are ever going to see, and as a result I would hardly call it gripping entertainment. This is not a John Wayne film about heroic figures storming up a hill in a heroic battle to the death, whilst tossing the Japanese off the hill. This is a story of the diverse characters, many of whom were draftees, who made up any unit in the United States Army at that time and their personal reactions to the often senseless violence going on around them. In that respect, this really is not a war film, but rather a poignant human drama. The arty aspect of the film is emphasized enormously by the narrative style of the dialogue at times and the very subdued use of sound at times beneath that narration.
The cast assembled for this effort reads like something of a who's who guide, to the extent that even such a relatively big name as John Travolta does not even rate a mention on the slip cover! Yet George Clooney is mentioned, in a role that only seems to make an appearance in the last couple of minutes of the film! Overall, whilst the cast is certainly extensive, not one of them really provides a standout performance. Having said that, the entire film is actually conveyed by way of some of the best cinematography that has ever been used in a war film. This conveys quite provocatively the ethereal manner of the film and heavily emphasizes the human struggle that is going on here.
Overall, I have to rate the film as somewhat of a disappointment from an entertainment point of view. The material is certainly not good enough to sustain a film of 163 minutes, and at times it certainly drags quite badly. However, I doubt that you will see a more ethereal war film ever and in that respect this does at least demand a viewing. It is not Saving Private Ryan and never will be, so do not approach it that way. It is The Thin Red Line, and it is on those terms that this film must be viewed.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.
Superlatives just cannot convey how good this transfer looks. The transfer is extremely clear and extremely sharp throughout. Detail is a joy to behold, hampered only very slightly by the odd instance of loss of ultimate detail in darker scenes, but this is more a reflection of the way the film was shot rather than the mastering of the DVD. Despite the sharpness and clarity, there was no hint of edge enhancement at all at any stage of the film. Shadow detail is generally very good indeed, although again there were a couple of instances where the detail could just have been a tad better, which again probably reflects the way the film was made. There is absolutely no problem with grain, and low level noise is similarly non-existent. There have been few films in Region 4 that have been blessed with as good a video transfer as this one. If you really want a video highlight, just check out the tracer fire coming straight at you during the fighting on Hill 210: stunning stuff indeed.
The colours were gorgeously vibrant throughout, and absolutely spot-on as far as saturation is concerned, without any tendency towards oversaturation. The result is a gorgeously natural looking film that oozes exquisite colour detail. The colours are remarkably consistent throughout. Wonderful looking stuff indeed.
There are no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Being exceedingly pedantic, there were a couple (and I do mean a couple) of quite minor instances of film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. However, I would be willing to make a decent wager that they would not be noticed by the vast majority of viewers - and I will not mention where they actually are so that I do not spoil the wonderful transfer for you. As usual for such a recent film, there are no significant film artefacts in the transfer.
This is an RSDL format disc, but I have yet to detect where the layer change occurs. It must therefore be a good one, as for the life of me I have not noticed any pause in the film, nor has my player exhibited its minor habit of becoming just a tad noisy after the layer change.
There is just the one audio track on this DVD, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.
The use of the narration throughout the film causes just a few problems with the listening experience, as some is recorded at a quite low level, and I did need to adjust my listening level a couple of times during this epic length film.
There did not appear to be any audio sync problems with the transfer at all.
The musical score comes from the pen of Hans Zimmer, and a reasonably understated effort it is too. However, it is nicely complementary to the film and almost made me wish that there was an isolated music score on offer here. The use of Melanesian songs has been well-handled in general.
As indicated, the film is heavily influenced by the narrative style of the dialogue overlaid on a subdued soundtrack at times. This is an interesting technique, even if it does hide some of the lovely detail in the soundtrack. When given its full reign, the soundtrack really does sing in all but one respect: I found the weapon discharges and explosions to be a little underdone. Maybe I am wrong, but I would have thought that these would have had a bit more of a percussive effect in the soundtrack. We do, however, get plenty of detail whizzing across the sound stage, especially gun fire, that is quite impressive. Overall, this is a nicely detailed soundtrack, without being an overtly aggressive soundtrack. The surround channel use is generally very effective, with the bass channel adding its support when required in a very convincing manner. There is nothing too over-the-top here, and really the only quibble is the stylistic one of the subduing of the soundtrack during narration. The result is a somewhat false soundscape during those sequences, but in all other respects this is a generally convincing effort.
An excellent video transfer, bordering on reference standard.
A fine audio transfer.
An inadequate extras package for a film of this stature.
© Ian Morris (have a
laugh, check out the bio)
19th August 2000
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|