PictureThe Rock comes blasting to the next generation High Definition Blu-ray format with a glorious new 1080p video rendition in the movie's original theatrical widescreen aspect ratio of 2.4:1. The detail is fantastic throughout, believe me the movie has never looked this good, not on the Criterion release, nor the relatively recent UK 2-disc Special Edition. Aside from the excellent clarity, there is next to no softness, negligible grain (only apparent in some of the latter Alcatraz confrontations) and no noticeable edge enhancement. The close-ups are pristine, the outdoor shots showcasing a picture-perfect sunny San Francisco and the indoor sequences offering a gritty prison setting. The colour scheme is reflected superbly in both those arenas as well, with quite a broad range of tones right up until and including the solid, deep blacks that allow for some superior shadowing and night incursion sequences. As I've stated, it is easily the best shape we have ever seen this movie in and, whilst perhaps not quite as perfect as the visual renditions provided for 2007 movies, it is still a fantastic effort.
SoundTo accompany the superior visuals, we get two solid audio tracks, the fairly standard Dolby Digital 5.1 Plus track and the powerful Uncompressed 5.1 PCM track that better reflects the full capability of the next generation Blu-ray format. Dialogue is never less than clear and coherent, coming across predominantly from the fronts and centre channels. The effects are fairly bombastic, with plenty of massive shootouts, powerful explosions and smashing car crashes to fill your ears, as well as lots of quieter ambient atmospheric effects like the sound of shattered glass being crushed underfoot or bomb wires being snipped, and it all gets presented well, allowing for a considerable amount of bass and some great dynamics across the surrounds. However, it should be noted that the majority of this track by Hans Zimmers powerful action score, with just the right amount of military thundering and patriotic theme-work to keep the explosive set-pieces thundering along, and give the surrounds and sub plenty of action too. Overall, for such an excellent action soundtrack we get a solid DD5.1 plus effort and a superior Uncompressed rendition.
ExtrasAlthough there are shamefully no Blu-ray-exclusive extras here, we do get all of the DVD extras ported over from the previous releases, well all but the best one - the Commentary, which is also disappointingly absent (despite the cover stating otherwise). Unfortunately to make matters worse, all of the other extras come with absolutely awful video quality. First up we get the Original Theatrical and Teaser Trailers and TV Spots, as well as a two-minute promotional clip of the World Premiere of The Rock, presented on Alcatraz itself, briefly detailing how they staged the event.
Navy SEALs on the Range is an interesting six minute Featurette hosted by a bunch of real Navy SEALs who describe various shooting techniques and the training required to be a SEAL, as well as offer a brief discussion on what real SEALs would have done when faced with the confrontation depicted in the movie.
Hollywood Humphries & Teague gives us eight minutes background into organising the firearms use for the movie, with insights into working with various weaponry, the dangers of blanks and some revelations about movie gun goofs and how stupid gangster shooting or even cowboy pistol drawing is when compared to real-life military techniques. Easily the most interesting offering, not least because it offers a informative critique of gun use in action movies.
Special Effects: The Dive Sequence takes eight minutes to look at how the effects team put together the underwater dive sequence, using shots of real divers for close-ups as well as models for the longer shots to give a bigger scale to the whole sequence. They go into quite a lot of detail into how they create and use the 'puppets' and this is also a nice offering.
Action Effects: Movie Magic is a ludicrously cheesy voice-over-man-tastic promotional piece that takes eight minutes to wax lyrical about several key action sequences. Using far too many adjectives he narrates the effects expose, which does actually offer some nice insight into the CGI visual effects used for this movie, even if they are not to the standard used now, over a decade later.
One of the most enjoyable extras (as is often the case), we get some Outtakes from The Rock. Lasting some eight minutes, they largely comprise Ed Harris swearing his head off from too many line fluffs, with one memorable outburst from Sean Connery (I don't think he's ever said the 'C' word before on film) and some nice improvisation by Nic Cage. Worth checking out.
Secrets of Alcatraz is an interesting historical Featurette, taking a quarter of a hour to look at the history of the island. Discussing its inhabitants, from the original aboriginals to the Spaniards, it goes on to mention its use as a light-house, an Army outpost and eventually a prison. With plenty of still shots to illustrate, as well as an informative tour of the main building complexes, this is also a nice little offering, which even explores the escapes attempted from Alcatraz, with detailed explanations from those with first-hand experience.
Finally we get a sixteen minute Jerry Bruckheimer Interview, the meatiest offering on this disc. Bruckheimer details his history in making movies, explaining how he got into it, his background in photography and his successes on the Big Screen. With a few nice anecdotes, fans of the producer and his work will be interested in this monologue.
VerdictThe Rock is a classic action adventure, with some great performances all round by Sean Connery, Ed Harris and Nicolas Cage. It is one of the best of its kind, a fitting final blockbuster from veteran cheesy action movie producer Don Simpson. If you haven't seen this then it is well worth checking out, it has everything - explosions, gunfights, great lines, comic moments and a solid story, all rounded off by stylish direction, a superior score and the aforementioned cast on top form. With the European Blu-rays (first the French then the UK version) released before the stateside equivalent, fans should be chuffed with the enhanced High Definition video and audio, but should also be wary of the fact that the Extras seem distinctly incomplete, with no sign of even the Audio Commentary that was previously included amongst the material ported straight from the DVD editions, let alone any Blu-ray exclusive additions. Still, it will be hard to avoid picking up this title: it's a technically superior version of a superb action adventure that deserves a place in everybody's collection.
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