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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Audio commentary
  • 2 Featurette
  • Short film - Original Race Footage

Seabiscuit (Rental)

Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 135 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

I’m not usually one who’s big on horse racing films. The whole thing has never really appealed to me. However, with Seabiscuit I could almost change my mind.

Telling the true story behind this horse who raced against War Admiral in the ‘Race of the Century’, Seabiscuit is wholly immersed in the period leading up to and including the Great Depression and the decade or so that followed. We are told in fair detail the backstories of the major characters in this epic fable and it is not until well into the second act that we actually meet the horse.

The story involves a man (Jeff Bridges) who built himself an empire from starting out in a bicycle factory, a jockey (Tobey Maguire) practically sold to his trainer by starving parents and a solitary horse trainer (Chris Cooper), more in tune with nature than with the winning circle. Together the three invest everything in this horse of good breeding, taking him from a dud training partner for other horses to the hero of the nation. It’s a truly uplifting story that proves anyone can make something from nothing if they just believe and this has been captured brilliantly by screenwriter and director Gary Ross (Pleasantville).

"Sometimes when the little guy doesn’t know he’s the little guy, he can do great big things… "

The assembled cast is perfect, with William H. Macy reuniting with Tobey Maguire and Gary Ross in an awesome performance as a race announcer of the day. Elizabeth Banks fills out the major players as Bridges’ second wife, helping him come to terms with the loss of his son and the consequent divorce from his first wife that followed. Together the cast work in perfect unison creating a warm atmosphere of solidarity and belief and without this chemistry it’s hard to say where this film might have gone.

Laura Hillenbrand’s best selling novel is brought to the screen in a rich manner and is apparently pretty close to the real events of the day. Hillenbrand herself worked as chief consultant for the film, along with numerous horse specialists and literally thousands of costumed extras, in a perfect encapsulation of the era and the excitement of the track. This film is well worth the investigation and I’m happy to say I enjoyed this immeasurably more than I was expecting to.

  Video
Contract

All is perfect here in a magnificent Buena Vista transfer. The massive 2.35:1 cinema aspect ratio captures the gigantic vistas of both the racetrack and the country estates very well and in sharp detail. Colours are vivid without oversaturation and blacks are true to life. Shadow detail is especially good, particularly in some night shots later in the film when the dark is very important to the story. There isn’t a trace of grain in the darker shots and the whole film bears no evidence of film artefacts. It’s a ten outta ten transfer and no mistake.

  Audio
Contract

Again we have a beautiful transfer here, with the choice between Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 surround. Checking it on two machines I didn’t discern a major difference in the two soundtracks, but perhaps the DTS gets the teensiest bit friskier in the paddock. All the surrounds get a good hammering around the racing scenes and the crowd noise of the track and they are evenly immersive without being overbearing. Dialogue is all well spoken and clear and the music by Randy Newman is everything it needs to be; uplifting, comedic, subtly supportive or dramatic and all the ranges in between. It’d be a pretty hard person who couldn’t be moved even slightly here by the combination of music and story.

  Extras
Contract

Not a bad batch, with firstly an odd audio commentary starring director Gary Ross and Steven Soderbergh. Soderbergh’s fancy for the different is well-documented and here he effectively grills Ross about the whole filmmaking process, though Soderbergh had no part in its creation. This is a fairly enjoyable AC with the two speaking eloquently about the film and the process, though they do enjoy numerous long pauses between diatribes. So I guess Soderbergh isn't to appear as a reporter on Sixty Minutes just yet...

Bringing the Legend to Life: The Making of Seabiscuit is the usual sort of featurette affair and runs for a concise 15:05. For a change, this making of actually feels too short. With so many varied and interesting topics to cover in the whole process, each gets little more than a nominal discussion before pressing on. This just serves to whet the appetite though and leaves us panting a little for more.

Anatomy of a Movie Moment is a quite interesting dissection of Gary Ross’ screenwriting methods as he discusses the buildup and the creation of the car crash scene and how he has utilised various styles to create a different feel to the film. With some look at script notes and so forth, this is a little too short for those interested in such things (like me) at 4:47.

Finally, the actual race footage of the 'Race of the Century' from 1938. This is very clean, leading me to think it has been restored and is the entire race in original black and white archival footage. It’s only in 4:3 of course and runs for a full 2:12 (although this was a lot longer in the olden days than it is now).

A nice selection there that packs some value into your dollar.

  Overall  
Contract

The character backstories and exploration seem to take forever in the beginning, which would appear very different for a start. The horse himself doesn’t enter into the film for quite a ways, but this is okay. The directorial style and method for telling these stories is very interesting and for a moment you may be forgiven for thinking this isn’t about horse racing at all. However, the film (which runs a full two hours 15) is never dreary and always interesting, be it visually or narratively. How this horse captured the hearts of millions is put into context brilliantly against the backdrop of a nation climbing steadily and determinedly out of the Depression. The use of authentic black and white photos of the era also works well to tell the story and overall the whole eclectic method of spinning the tale works in one unified manner that makes the film very entertaining.

I couldn’t recommend this one more for anyone wanting a good and true story about the underdog doing a little arse kicking. Very impressive.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=3980
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      And I quote...
    "A masterfully shot film that brings history to life in the telling of the story of a racehorse that won a nation’s heart."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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