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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Mono
  • French: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
  Subtitles
    English, French, Spanish
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer

The Year of Living Dangerously

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 115 mins . M15+ . NTSC

  Feature
Contract

With the amount of political and social instability in Indonesia during recent years, it would seem that The Year of Living Dangerously is as relevant today as it was upon its release in 1982. When you also consider that it is set in 1965, it becomes even more obvious that Indonesia has probably always been a country where violence and corruption is impossible to police, and censorship and propaganda are the favoured tools of power and control.

Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson) is an Australian journalist on assignment in Indonesia, at a time when President Sukarno faces civil revolution, and will do anything necessary to crush the revolution and shield foreign journalists from it. However, with the aid of his photographer friend, Billy Kwan (a gender-bending Linda Hunt), a half-Australian, half-Indonesian dwarf who has made his home in Indonesia, he scores an interview that will break important news to a waiting world. Kwan also introduces Hamilton to Jill Bryant (Sigourney Weaver), a world-weary British diplomat who becomes romantically involved with Hamilton. As Hamilton receives more and more information about what is happening, he is faced with a choice of reporting what he has learned, or withholding the information. If he reports it, as his journalistic side urges him to do, he will betray the source of that information - Jill!

The Year of Living Dangerously is a successful film for several reasons. There are great characters, great direction from Peter Weir, and fine performances from the cast. Linda Hunt, who won an Academy Award for the role of Billy Kwan, gives a brilliant performance as the character that is the link between Hamilton and Bryant. The film does not use Indonesia's social upheavals as its core, but as a backdrop to the relationships that develop between the main characters. The exotic locations (filmed in The Philippines) add to the darkness and mystery of the film, and there are times when you begin to wonder, is this really 1965? Some things appear to have changed little in 2002.

Until recently, this film remained banned in Indonesia. Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver are now top shelf Hollywood names commanding huge salaries and even Peter Weir went on to become a respected and successful Hollywood director. With films such as this, Australia proved that we can make movies as good as anyone else, even if some of them don't reach the audiences they deserve.

  Video
Contract

Warners have done it again - NTSC. Be warned viewers, you will need NTSC compatible hardware to view this release. Upon insertion, the movie fires up immediately, but as there is nothing particularly important on the main menu, this is not too annoying. The Year of Living Dangerously is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Overall, this is a fair transfer, and although the image is not particularly sharp, it is acceptable. Colours are on the dark side, but there are limited opportunities for them to shine and there is no colour bleeding or cross-colouration. Shadow detail rarely rises above acceptable, and black levels are also fine. There is no low-level noise, but there are some instances of aliasing. While they are quite distracting, fortunately they are infrequent.

There are some artefacts in evidence, which consist mostly of white flecks, but they are minor. The only other distraction occurs in chapter 23. As the camera alternates between shots, there is a noticeable band of discolouration that runs across the screen at the bottom of the image. It lasts a fraction of a second with each camera change, and disappears after less than a minute. I can find no explanation for it.

  Audio
Contract

Not only is this an NTSC transfer, but the only English audio option is a stunning (?) Dolby Digital 1.0 mono. It is unremarkable to say the least. All audio emanates from the centre speaker and as such there is no panning, no separation, and no 'depth' to the audio. There are no deep low-level sounds, and while there are no loud noises in the film, a 5.1 mix, or even a stereo mix, would have created a greater ambience. The dialogue is clear and audio-sync is not a problem. There is no layer change as this is a single layer disc.

The other audio options are French, and Spanish. Both are in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono, and there are English, French and Spanish subtitles. What? No Indonesian?

  Extras
Contract

The film may have raised a few eyebrows when it was released, but these extras on this disc certainly won't. There is just a Theatrical Trailer which runs for 3:12, is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, is anamorphically enhanced and is in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

  Overall  
Contract

The Year of Living Dangerously is not a film for kids, or lovers of BDAFs (Big Dumb Action Films). There is a fine balance of suspense, drama, and intrigue, which will delight lovers of such things. The video and audio transfers are adequate at best, and in NTSC. The great performances of the three leads, especially Linda Hunt, are worthy of praise, and the film as a whole will probably leave you thankful that we live in a country considered relatively safe and stable. Of course, Indonesia as our close neighbour is a favourite holiday destination, so it's best to remember that although geographically we are close, politically and socially, we couldn't be further apart, then or now.


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      And I quote...
    "Another NTSC-only release from Warners. An adequate transfer at best, but films such as this deserve better..."
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Akai
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
          Wellings
    • Centre Speaker:
          Wellings
    • Surrounds:
          Wellings
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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