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December 14, 2008
Swordfish Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
2/6/20016/11/2008Village RoadshowDominic Sena
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
VC-1Dolby Digital 5.1 640kbpsMA15+John Travolta

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Swordfish is a slick, Hollywood, movie!
When you fill an action movie with stars such as John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, and Don Cheadle you expect it to do well. In 2001 the $US100 million movie Swordfish was released and promptly grossed $US147 million around the globe. While not a phenomenal box office success the high paced action and wonderful visual effects ensure a strong showing when the movie hit DVD late that year. Now, seven years later, the Blu-Ray release is upon us.

When the DEA shut down its dummy corporation operation codenamed SWORDFISH in 1986, they had generated $400 million which they let sit around; fifteen years of compound interest has swelled it to $9.5 billion. A covert counter-terrorist unit called Black Cell, headed by the suave Gabriel Shear, wants the money to help finance their raise-the-stakes vengeance war against international terrorism, but it's all locked away behind super-encryption. He brings in convicted hacker Stanley Jobson to slice into the government mainframes and get the money.

If you've seen this movie then you will know some of the great scenes. John Travolta's opening monologue is stunningly brutal, and yet true; the glorious, and also brutal, explosion in the opening moments of the movie; Hugh Jackman's character undergoing his 'hacking test'; and of course Halle Berry sunbaking! There are a couple of neat twists and turns, not least of which is the third act and the movie never comes to a crawl. If you're looking for something deep and meaningful look elsewhere, but if you're after an entertaining couple of hours this will fit the bill nicely.

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Sexiest man alive, Hugh Jackman, with Halle Berry.
There is one scene which I must mention. That's Halle Berry's hooters. Rumours point to being paid a large sum of money for them to be 'exposed' during the movie and exposed they are. Now I'm not against breasts (or nudity) - far from it in fact - but they way these are put into the movie is so blatant it's almost like product placement.

Swordfish is an action thriller that doesn't do anything out of the ordinary, but is a polished, stylish movie that is a great couple of hours entertainment. After a couple of viewings it still holds up pretty well.

With a runtime of 1 hour 39 minutes, and very polished Hollywood productions this really is a movie that shines on Blu-Ray. Encoded at 1080p at the films original aspect ration of 2.35:1 using the VC-1 codec you know this is something impressive from John Travolta's opening monologue. The picture intentionally blurs in and out of focus, but when sharp, the clarity and detail is superb. This sharpness continues through the entire the movie with the bitrate hovering around the 20Mbps mark, but often reaching far higher then this in the busier scenes. The picture has a slightly warm orange tint to it, but it is consistent throughout and almost gives the picture a late summer afternoon feel.

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Hugh Jackman running from the cops.

Ever since this movie was released on DVD back in 2001 it remains a 'poster child' for surround sound, particularly in the jaw dropping opening scene after the initial explosion. The way everything gets torn up by the ball bearing shrapnel in the 'Matrix' inspired pan around the scene is second to none. Having this movie released on Blu-Ray promised to bring this

Why then are we disappointed? Well Warner Brothers have only provided a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix encoded at 640kbps rather then a lossless effort such as DTS-HD Master Audio or Dolby TrueHD. This movie was screaming out for something better then this - and by this we mean some form of lossless format.

Other languages on this disc include a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 640kbps, and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 track at 192kbps. While the French track matches the English audio experience, the Spanish track is pretty flat. Subtitles are provided in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish and Korean. We've sampled the English track and it was accurate to dialogue, with good pacing.

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Visually Swordfish is great on Blu-Ray.
Sadly, if you've got the DVD, then you've probably seen the extras on this disc as they have been recycled from that release, without any upgrade to HD. Sadly this Blu-Ray disc also omits the rather entertaining Rove Interview with John Travolta and Hugh Jackman which appeared on the Australian DVD release.

Audio Commentary with Director Dominic Sena: A somewhat interesting commentary which will interest fans of the movie. Plenty of production details are discussed, as well as shooting locations, visual effects, and trouble with actors.

HBO First Look: Swordfish (15:01): A pretty typical promotional fluff piece which tries to sell the movie more then detail the production process. Still there are some interviews with John Travolta and Hugh Jackman with some interesting details. According to reports this feature runs for around 24 minutes on the American release, which is something I haven't been able to confirm, but you may want to keep that in mind.

Effects in Focus: The Flying Bus (8:13): A look at one of the most exciting moments in the movie - when the bus gets carried off in the helicopter. Not only does this cover the practical shooting, but also the visual effects. Quite interesting.

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John Travolta gets his gun off in Swordfish.
Swordfish: In Conversation (12:46):
Interviews with the cast on a variety of topics related to the movie, computers, and being on set. Nothing too comprehensive, but it is mildly interesting.

Alternate Endings (5:54): Two alternate endings are presented here with optional directors commentary. Both are visually and sonically very poor but they are quite different endings and its clear to see why the current ending was used.

Music Video "Planet Rock (Swordfish Mix)" by Paul Oakenfold (2:11): As one of my favourite DJ's/artists I was quite impressed to see this dance track video clip which includes plenty of scenes from the movie. Unfortunately it's not one of this best songs.

Theatrical Trailer (2:11): The theatrical trailer, which actually sells the movie very well, but is only presented in Standard Definition with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio at 192kbps.

Swordfish is a Hollywood popcorn flick at its very best. Brash, over the top, and full of stunts this remains a pretty entertaining movie. This Blu-Ray disc looks wonderful and the audio - despite the lack of a lossless track - is also strong. Worth a look if you're a fan of the movie.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.