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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 72.32)
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  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • German: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Italian: Dolby Digital Stereo
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In the Name of the Father

Universal/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 133 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

There have been many stories told about the Troubles in Northern Ireland and their consequences, both in visual and print media. The frequent and unimaginable tragedy of the situation has changed little over the years, despite many attempts at some semblance of peace on both sides (this review, by the way, is not the place to discuss the causes and history of the Troubles; follow the related links on this review page for more information if you need to be brought up to speed). Indeed, recent news reports of the mind-boggling harassment of young children on their way to school show how, in some ways, the situation has become even more serious. The passion, horror and tragic circumstances of the conflict makes for often-great cinema – after all, there are stories here that would be inventive fiction of the highest order were they not, sadly, reflections of real-life events.

When director-writer Jim Sheridan decided to tell one such story back in 1993, he was the toast of the film world following his triumphant directorial debut My Left Foot and the highly respected The Field. Sheridan took an autobiographical book written by Gerry Conlon and turned its essence into a startling screenplay called In The Name Of The Father, and reunited with My Left Foot star Daniel Day-Lewis to get the story onto the screen.

And it’s quite a story. Conlon, a feisty petty thief from Belfast, found himself caught up in one of the most notorious events in recent British legal history when he quite coincidentally ended up in the town of Guildford on the same night that the IRA escalated their terror campaign to a new level by bombing the local pub without warning, killing five and injuring scores of others. The public were outraged - as were the authorities, who wasted no time in passing the Prevention Of Terrorism Act, allowing the police to arrest anyone they considered a suspect and hold them for up to seven days without laying charges. Conlon’s presence in the wrong place at the wrong time directly placed him and his friends at the scene of the bombing, according to police – and despite the accused’s justifiable accusations of police intimidation and brutality, he and his co-accused (along with many family members) were convicted and imprisoned with exceptionally harsh sentences. The public had demanded a conviction, and the police made sure they got one. The fact that they had convicted the wrong people was, under the climate of the time, of little interest to the English people and authorities.

There’s no small irony in the (coincidental) fact that the DVD of this superb film is being released now, less than a month after tragic events in the US that have resulted in authorities there pursuing suspects with the same kind of fervour, tossing aside civil liberties in the process. What happens to Conlon, his friends and his family is a timely warning about the dangers of attempting to make justice been seen to be done at any cost.

In contrast to many of his other films, Sheridan keeps an almost surreal tension and momentum going throughout the running time of In The Name Of The Father. Events unfold at lightning speed (some of them fictionalised for dramatic effect, something Sheridan has never made any secret of) and the all-pervading sense of helplessness throughout is a brilliant tactic – for most of the film we’re very much put in Conlon’s place, made to see what he sees and feel what he feels. Day-Lewis offers one of the performances of his career as Conlon, though typically Sheridan has cast his film with a set of remarkable actors who click perfectly with each other; Pete Postlethwaite is absolutely remarkable, for one, as Conlon’s father.

As with his more recent The Boxer, too, Sheridan does not just chronicle events dispassionately. The relationship between Conlon and his father, key to the success of this film, is intricately scripted and superbly played. We get more insight into Gerry Conlon because of it, and we feel his pain all the more.

The film certainly does not paint a glowing picture of the English people or their justice system, and does occasionally seem to be ramming home its point on both a little too forcefully. But this is highly emotional subject matter, and it’s unlikely that anyone who gets caught up in the story and spirit of this movie will either notice or care. This is, after all, Conlon’s story, and Sheridan tells it with consummate skill (assisted by some stunning editing work by Gerry Hambling) and a total understanding of the capabilities of his actors.

  Video
Contract

Easily the best video transfer of In The Name Of The Father yet, the 16:9 enhanced 1.85:1 image here is notable for quite a few reasons – but one stands out and, at least for the moment, it can’t be easily explained. The original theatrical running time of In The Name Of The Father was 133 minutes – and this DVD of the film presents it with exactly the same running time. This is, of course, highly unusual for a PAL transfer of a theatrical feature – usually, the film is sped up by 1 frame per second during the telecine transfer to match the PAL frame rate of 25 frames per second, and the running time of the movie is slightly shorter as a result. This is not the case with this disc, implying that this is either a PAL conversion of an NTSC master, or that some digital cleverness has been done to put the film onto PAL video without speeding it up. The NTSC-conversion theory seems the most likely one, and is supported by the frequent appearance of “judder” during smooth camera pans – but the sheer quality of the video on offer here seems to belie that theory, with none of the usual problems inherent in PAL-NTSC conversion visible. We’ll try and find out some details from the distributor, and update this review with any new information should it turn up.

Aside from that, though, fans of the film will be perfectly pleased with the transfer here. It’s razor-sharp (with the occasional overdose of edge enhancement, but nothing too distracting) and very, very clean. There are a few instances of film damage, but these are all minor save for one very visible (but very brief) mark on a couple of frames. Considering the fact that the film was shot in the pre-digital age eight years ago, though, the video quality on offer on this DVD is quite startling. Colours are somewhat desaturated (especially compared directly to The Boxer) but that’s deliberate – remember, this movie is set in the 1970s.

The layer change is noticeable, but well placed and quickly navigated.

  Audio
Contract

One of the first Universal films to employ the then-new DTS 5.1 sound system in cinemas, In The Name Of The Father can now be heard in all its original 5.1 glory at home. Don’t expect audio fireworks though – not only is this a dialogue-heavy film as well as one mixed in the relatively infant days of 5.1, but also it follows Jim Sheridan’s frequent preference for natural-sounding, non-sensational soundtracks. The surrounds are employed largely for atmospheric effect (as they are on a Dolby Stereo track, which was how the film was exhibited in this country) while the subwoofer is mainly employed to handle the bottom-end frequencies of the music. That said, this is a very well mixed soundtrack, and though it shows its relative age on occasion (via lack of frequency response in location audio and very noticeable tape hiss) it serves its movie extremely well.

  Extras
Contract

Aside from some cursory production notes and brief biographies and filmographies for the key players, there’s nothing on this disc extras-wise at all. That’s a shame, too – a Sheridan commentary would have been highly desirable on this, one of his best-known and most respected movies to date. On the positive side, though, the dual-layered disc is filled almost to capacity by the movie itself, which is encoded at a startlingly high bitrate – take that, “Superbit”!

  Overall  
Contract

A gripping, compelling drama about one of the nastiest English-perpetrated injustices of the 1970s, In The Name Of The Father is flawlessly directed, acted, photographed and edited, and it will keep you enthralled from start to finish – there’s absolutely nothing superfluous here at all. Universal’s DVD presents the film wonderfully, and the high-calibre transfer is the best treatment this movie’s received yet on home video.


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      And I quote...
    "...the high-calibre transfer is the best treatment this movie’s received yet on home video."
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
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    • Audio Cables:
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    • Video Cables:
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