A Few Good Men - Blu-Ray Movie Review
|17/12/1992||5/12/2007||Sony Pictures||Rob Reiner|
|MPEG-2||Dolby Digital 5.1 640kbps|
PCM 5.1 4.6Mbps
Released 15 years ago in 1992 A Few Good Men is one of the great military movies of the modern era and along the way even managed to score four Academy Award nominations (it lost the Best Picture award to Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven). There's no denying that A Few Good Men has a great cast, great acting, great dialogue, great direction and great delivery. It's all here.
This military courtroom drama based on the play by Aaron Sorkin, is actually inspired by an actual court case. While the bulk of the movie is obviously made up, just knowing that similar events took place makes it all the more powerful. To see it hit the Blu-Ray format so early in its life - especially given the amount of 'popcorn flicks that were released early on - is quite a surprise, but one which we certainly appreciate.
Navy lawyer Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is assigned to defend two Marines, Pfc. Louden Downey and Lance Cpl. Harold Dawson, who are accused of the murder of fellow leatherneck Pfc. William Santiago at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Kaffee generally plea bargains for his clients rather than bring them to trial, which is probably why he was assigned this potentially embarrassing case, but when Lt. Commander JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) is assigned to assist Kaffee, she is convinced that there's more to the matter than they've been led to believe and convinces her colleague that the case should go to court. Under questioning, Downey and Dawson reveal that Santiago died in the midst of a hazing ritual known as "Code Red" after he threatened to inform higher authorities that Dawson opened fire on a Cuban watchtower.
|The Australian Blu-Ray cover.|
Tom Cruise - love him or hate him - is one hell of an actor and this is certainly one of his best movies. Fortunately he is surrounded by a stellar supporting cast. This supporting cast includes the likes of Jack "You can't handle the truth!" Nicholson, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Pollak, James Marshall, J.T. Walsh, Noah Wyle, and Cuba Gooding Jr. Rarely has a movie been able to bring such a stellar cast together and get them to gel with such chemistry. One of the most impressive aspects about A Few Good Men is that despite the 138 minute runtime this doesn't feel like a long movie and from the moment it starts you'll be hooked. If you haven't seen this movie then you're in for something special, if you have seen it then you will know just how brilliant it is.
Presented in MPEG-2 in the films original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 A Few Good Men is pretty good in quality overall with a sharpness and colour richness not seen in the DVD version, although it is a few steps below the best Blu-Ray releases to date. My initial impressions were one of considerable concern. The opening Colombia Pictures Logo is extremely grainy, and there is considerable telecine wobble, the same can be said of the Castle Rock Entertainment logo, but fortunately when the movie starts there is a marked improvement in the image.
The age of the source material means this isn't the highly processed, glossy cinema that we see today, but what we have here is a realistic looking courtroom drama. There are a few scenes that take place outside, including some gorgeous sunset scenes around Guantanamo Bay (which weren't actually shot there for obvious reasons), however the vast majority of the picture takes place indoors - primarily in the courtroom. The film does suffer from some small amounts of grain and detail in some of the darker scenes is a little lacking.
As seems to be the case with most current Sony Pictures Blu-Ray releases there are two English audio options on this disc. The first is a PCM track encoded at 4.6Mbps while the second is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 640kbps. Obviously the former is the preferred option however with A Few Good Men being such a dialogue driven movie the audio is very much focused on the front speakers, and there is little use of surround sound. Still the audio is at all times clear with plenty of glorious music from Marc Shaiman. It's not quite reference quality, nor demo material, but this is probably as good as this movie will ever sound.
French Dolby Digital 5.1 640kbps, German PCM 5.1 at 4.6Mbps and Dolby Digital 5.1 640kbps, Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 640kbps and Polish 2 Channel 192kbps audio (which actually just overlays Polish voices over the English ones - we suspect that may become a little annoying as you can hear two audio tracks at once!). Subtitles are provided in 25 different languages including English and English SDH. From the English track we sampled had quite a bit of dialogue cut out, obviously so people can keep pace with some of the faster talking though the movie.
For such a big movie it was a little surprising that the movie has never been given the full-blown Special Edition treatment on DVD, and that holds true with the Blu-Ray version as well. I would have absolutely loved to see Ed O'Neill's performances as deleted scenes for the movie - a performance which had to be cut due to audiences still recognising him as the bumbling Al Bundy from Married with Children - alas they aren't here. The extras on this Blu-Ray disc have been ported over from the DVD and while good are certainly a little light on for our liking.
Commentary with Director Rob Reiner:
Typically I love to listen to documentaries. They often contain a lot of information on not only on the actual production of the film, but often the real life events that inspired it. Unfortunately this commentary from Rob Reiner is rather dull as there are lengthy periods of several minutes where he remains silent however the details which he does provide are pretty interesting including locations of shots, and details on cast and crew.
Code of Conduct (34:51):
|One of the greatest courtroom movies ever.|
The same documentary presented on the DVD release this is a pretty decent look at the production of this movie including interviews with the cast and crew including Tom Cruise. It's a little self-congratulatory in places and repeats too many scenes from the movie, but it's a slick production worth a viewing.
A Few Good Men: From Stage To Screen (13:45):
For those of you unaware this movie actually started life as a Stage Play. This documentary talks about how the film rights were sold, and the script re-written for the Silver Screen. This is one aspect of filmmaking (the original source material) which is rarely covered in extras on discs, but it works well.
Trailers for Reign Over Me and Casino Royale as well as the generic Coming to Blu-Ray trailer from Sony Pictures. Each presented in HD with Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio.
A Few Good Men is a brilliant movie with a stellar cast, brilliant directing and a great storyline. The transfer to this Blu-Ray disc isn't the sharpest we've seen but it certainly looks better here then we have ever seen the movie. There are a couple extras to check out, but this movie still deserves so much more. Still, a great movie which deserves to be added to any fans collection. If you haven't seen it yet, make sure you do so.
Review By: Dave Warner
Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Sony Pictures. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.