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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • German: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Hebrew, Portuguese, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 3 Featurette - Production, Robert Redford and Buck Brannaman
  • Animated menus
  • Music video - 'A Soft Place To Fall' by Allison Moorer

The Horse Whisperer: SE

Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 162 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Nicholas Evan’s highly-acclaimed novel, The Horse Whisperer, has been brought to the screen by Robert Redford in a film starring, directed by and produced by the Academy-Award winning Hollywood lead. Co-starring is Kristen Scott Thomas (Life as a House), Academy-Award winner Dianne Wiest, Academy-Award winner Chris Cooper (Adaptation), AFI-Award winner Sam Neill and the talented young Scarlett Johansson (North, The Man Who Wasn’t There).

This film hit much higher than expected, and covers so much ground over its lengthy duration that pacing would be the only quibble. So the question comes, who won the race - the hare or the tortoise? Well it doesn’t really matter, because by the time both of those creatures are long gone this movie is still going... but it's going for a reason. Either someone has a love for over-dramatising every single frame, and a love for slow-motion photography, or they just want to express the beauty through film. Personally, the latter makes more sense (and is much kinder), as this beauty can be seen from the very beginning of the film, with each frame carefully and precisely composed with plenty of close-ups and lots of slow motion photography. Now getting picky over slow motion photography, if you plan on using it, change the camera speed rather than the speed in post production, as this gives off a rather annoying blinking effect, often seen in this film. For a fine comparison of the two styles, check out the fairground scene in Hearts in Atlantis and you will be able to see the difference. The scenery is simply stunning, and is so surreal that it feels artificial. But there is beauty in the world, even if it isn’t on the news, and this film captures it for 162 minutes.

- "Don't they believe in signs around here?"
- "What would they say? "Ten miles to Big Rock, twenty miles to Bigger Rock"?"

After a traumatic accident, Grace (Johansson) and her horse Pilgrim both suffer from some serious physical and emotional stresses. Grace’s mother, Annie (Scott Thomas), a busy (and restless) magazine editor researches horse therapy and comes across a "horse whisperer", Tom Booker (Redford). A horse whisperer is someone who is said to be able to look into the soul of a horse and, as Tom puts it, “help a horse with people problems”. Her New York residence doesn’t help Tom come and see the horse, so an x-thousand mile road trip takes place, with an angry sedated horse in a trailer and an angry moody daughter in the back seat. So what follows is the tale of this bustling business woman finding this horse whisperer who not only looks at Pilgrim and his scars, but also at Annie and her family, and who will touch their lives in a way unlike any other. Settle down in a comfortable chair (really comfortable, 162 minutes is a long hike), cuddle up and be captivated like the millions of moviegoers and critics alike who were all touched by the magic, the beauty and the warmth of The Horse Whisperer.

  Video
Contract

The video is presented in a richly detailed 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with 16:9 enhancement. From a distance the transfer is perfect, with a superbly mastered picture – definitely a big step up from the double-sided flipper version. But up closer, the finer details haven’t been given the nicest possible treatment. Hey, there’s nothing terribly wrong with it, just slight imperfections in the quality of the image. Now don’t panic when you start this film, as the opening scenes set in and around New York appear with black bars not only to the top and bottom, but to the side as well, framing the picture in an aspect of approximately 2.05:1. When Annie and Grace leave New York and head to Montana, the full spectrum of the 2.35:1 aspect can be seen. This was the same style used on the theatrical release, however, it looked much better on the big screen when the side bars are more apparent than on a 4:3 TV, and the transition between them more obvious.

Posterisation effects would be the biggest killer here, with some cases screamingly obvious, and others only subtly present. Film artefacts of the dust variety flick past quickly, yet far too often for this reviewer’s liking considering the print's age. The black and sometimes white specks vary in size, sometimes large messy spots and other times a quick coloured dot. But still, these artefacts really do distract, especially on the static scenery shots for example. Grain is ever-so-lightly covering the image for portions, but generally the image is clean.

The detail in the image is incredible, richly capturing Robert Richardson’s stunning cinematography and textbook frame compositions. Redford and Richardson gel together and produce an acute sense of style, which jumps realistically and vividly off the screen. But hey, it just looks damn fine, and isn’t that what matters, textbook or not? The image is a little soft at times, but this is an artistic effect rather than transfer issue, with a soft homey feel to the specific scenes, adding a warm and caring touch. Colours are saturated with rich depth, and blacks are as deep and solid as the night sky, showing no sign of low level noise. And just when things were getting so good, a slight glitch in the video leaves a bit of a sour taste in your mouth, when 9743 seconds are mastered with such precision, and only one second destroys the beauty. In this one second, a rather large line of the screen has been misplaced, with a thick line in the image being shunted to the left, skewing the image briefly. And one second was all it took...

This 162 minute film fits nicely on the DVD, and is spread over two layers with a layer change during the film. Somewhere. Subtitles in 14 languages provide accurate titles for the dialogue, and are clear and easy to follow in that trademark Buena Vista typeface.

  Audio
Contract

The first of three audio tracks is the prime listening option – Dolby Digital 5.1 English, which provides all of the ingredients for a powerhouse of activity. The two remaining tracks both offer 5.1-goodness, but with language options of Spanish and German. Surround action is limited during this dialogue-driven film, but Thomas Newman’s hauntingly powerful score drives through an incredibly broad soundstage, swinging clearly from each and every speaker. The accident sequence towards the start of the film offers some of the biggest activity, with a whopping big bass line and wildly intense surround channel usage.

Clearly (no pun intended), the fidelity of the sound is absolutely incredible, especially when the score is carrying on in the foreground, such as in chapter 20 (look for yourself, no spoilers here!). The quality of the sound is immaculate, making you feel like you’re right there in the recording studio. Thomas Newman, who scored other films such as Sam Mendes’ Road to Perdition and American Beauty, leaves a sound that just screams “Thomas Newman” and is so similar to that used in Road to Perdition. Not that this is a bad thing, but one cue in The Horse Whisperer just provides that right tone to the scenes. However, saying this, Newman excels as he broadens his scope for this film using a full orchestra, with each section providing nearly a solo performance for particular scenes. By doing this, you start to forget that it is a Thomas Newman score, and just get swept away by the utter magic of it all.

  Extras
Contract

This 'Special Edition' disc from Buena Vista hits home with a large difference compared to The Horse Whisperer’s earlier release, as in we have a single-sided, dual-layered disc here now, so no flipping of the disc is required during the film. Surely that must count for something?

The theatrical trailer does an incredible job of telling the premise of the story, without giving too much away. The 2:04 letterboxed trailer features Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, and captures some truly stunning imagery, leaving the audience gasping for more.

Three featurettes, The Production Featurette (1:54), The Robert Redford Featurette (1:36) and The Buck Brannanam Featurette (1:44), have been included, yet offer little to no insight into the film, as these act simply as advertising spots. Two minutes is barely enough time to make noodles, let along to go in depth about the making of a complex film.

Finally, a 4:29 music video, A Soft Place To Fall by Allison Moorer, has been thrown in, adding trivial value to the package.

  Overall  
Contract

For lovers of horses or lovers of fine cinema, this 'Special Edition' is a worth addition to your collection. It’s duration may deter some audiences, but the film is well worth the journey, and well worth repeated trips. A high-quality video transfer accompanies a stunning audio transfer, and the extras are trivial and relatively uninformative. But hey, at least Dr. Harry Cooper is nowhere in sight! Yee-haw!


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=2599
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      And I quote...
    "From Academy-Award winning director Robert Redford comes a film with stunning clarity - and Dr. Harry Cooper is nowhere in sight!"
    - Martin Friedel
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Philips DVD 736K
    • TV:
          TEAC EU68-ST
    • Receiver:
          Sony HT-SL5
    • Speakers:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Centre Speaker:
          Sony SS-CNP2
    • Surrounds:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Subwoofer:
          Sony SA-WMSP3
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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