The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Magnolia HE - 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 97 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-25
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Bill Pullman, Julia Ormond, Michael Ironside, Pell James, French Stewart, Ryan Simpkins
Directed by: Jennifer Lynch
Music by: Todd Bryanton
Written by: Jennifer Lynch and Kent Harper
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: August 18, 2009
"Dark and depraved"
When Federal Officers Elizabeth Anderson (Julia Ormond) and Sam Hallaway (Bill Pullman) arrive at Captain Billing’s office, they have three sets of stories to figure out and a string of vicious murders to consider. One zealot cop, a strung out junkie and an eight year old girl all sit in testimony to the roadside rampage, but as the Feds begin to expose the fragile little details each witness conceals so carefully with a well practiced lie, they soon discover that uncovering ‘the truth’ can come at a very big cost…
The highway in this long stretch of nowhere stretches for miles across a windy, barren landscape. The never-ending horizon seems to retreat the closer you get, and if a car broke down here it might take forever for someone to notice. In the midst of it, Officers Jack Bennett (Kent Harper) and Jim Conrad (French Stewart), sit dangerously bored and dreaming of the kind of glory that can only come with a serial killer or maniac on the loose. By the time Federal Officers Elizabeth Anderson (Julia Ormond) and Sam Hallaway (Bill Pullman) arrive the next day, a string of violent murders does in fact appear to be plaguing the lonely road. The police are straining at the bit to get back out and apprehend the murderers, but the Feds work differently. In order to uncover the truth of the case, Anderson and Hallaway first have to take their witnesses back—back to what happened when their lives intersected. A few details slowly emerge: Officers Bennett and Conrad were checking the horizon for speeders. Bobbi (Pell James) and Johnny (Mac Miller) were in the cherry Duster, tearing the highway up and having fun. Little Stephanie’s (Ryan Simpkins) family station wagon was cruising too, with her mom and new step-dad busy singing in the front seat and her brother David next to her in the back. The problem was, as Stephanie saw it, that adults never listen to little kids, no matter how many times she tried to tell them what she saw out the window. Perhaps if they had, it all would have turned out differently. As the Feds slowly expose the fragile little details each witness conceals so carefully with a well practiced lie, the ‘truth’ they are looking for starts to extract an enormous price no one expected.
I found this to be an interesting character study that require special attention. Be warned that this is a violent film that some may find distasteful but rewarding if viewed in the proper context. The movie opens with the brutal attack of a couple as they lie in bed. The two perpetrators wear masks and seem to take pleasure in tormenting their victims. Once the attack is discovered a pair of FBI agents who have been trailing the perpetrators arrives at the local police station to head the investigation. From there the main characters are introduced and the plot is established. It revolves around an incident that occurred on the highway after the aforementioned attacks. It is evident that the same two attackers were involved and not everyone who was present survived. It is told through a series of slowly revealed flashbacks as told from the perspective of three separate witnesses. It is readily apparent that all is not what it seems but by the time you figure out (if you do figure it out) what is going on you will find that you have been successfully kept in the dark up to that point. I figured things out in the third act although the thought crossed my mind briefly earlier than that. I liked the fact that the story is written in an almost ambiguous light where you get the feeling that no one can be trusted (except perhaps for Stephanie). I have to admit that it doesn’t portray the cops featured in the story in a positive or realistic light but their conduct does prove entertaining nevertheless. When the truth is revealed the results are twisted and a bit disturbing, but are not necessarily surprising if you paid attention during the movie. The script and direction do a good job of maintaining plot focus. At 97 minutes it certainly isn’t long however there were times were I felt it just moved too slowly. Kudos to the cast as everyone equally contributed to this film. It’s obvious that Director Jennifer Lynch (daughter of David Lynch) had a clear vision of the essence of these characters and how she wanted to incorporate them into the story’s dark nature. Surveillance is a stimulating film that has a depraved and sadistic side that may not appeal to everyone but if given a chance proves to be a half way decent thriller that may surprise you.
The rating is for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some drug use and a scene of aberrant sexuality.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Surveillance comes to Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia HE featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.8 mbps.
This video presentation used a variety of intentional visual styles to relay the director’s vision. Several sequences use dynamic contrast set against a faded and grainy chromatic backdrop with one or two highly saturated colors that stand out in stark opposition to the other elements within the shot. This usually comes during the flashback sequences. It’s used similarly but to a lesser extent in the film’s opening and a later flashback that takes place during the same time frame. During the remainder of the film grain is less prominent, contrast remains elevated (but to a lesser degree), and colors are rendered with deep emphasis on primaries (especially red) and are used to augment certain aspects of the story. Whites are detailed with bright highlights, blacks are just average and detail in shadows and low lighting is notable. Images are cleanly rendered with very good to excellent detail that is easily discernible in close ups and mid-level distant camera shots. Objects within backgrounds during long range visuals aren’t definitively resolved which made some wide angle camera shots appear less dimensional. The video isn’t razor sharp, but in all but a few instances, it consistently had defining structure and refining clarity.
This is a solid DTS-HD Master Audio encoding that rendered this soundtrack quite well. Dialogue is firmly planted in the center channel and clearly renders voices and effects with appropriate distinction and balance within the front soundstage. Low frequency effects aren’t intense but the subwoofer is kept busy as it works in tandem with the rest of the system to convey the low level bass impact as dictated by the film’s elements. Dynamic range was very good which lent subtle distinction to low level sounds and gravity to broader ones. A large portion of the film has little need for this as dialogue, atmospheric ambience and musical enhancement is readily conveyed by the front channels. However there are several sequences that engage the entire system to briefly produce room filling sound that is measurable but not necessarily engaging.
- Surveillance: The watched are watching – 15 minute making of featurette
- HDNET: A look at Surveillance – 4 minute feature
- 2 deleted scenes and alternate ending – All three were appropriately left out of the final product
- (HD) 4 BD Previews from Magnolia HE:
- Mutant chronicles
- Two lovers
- The life before her eyes
Surveillance is a taut and outwardly sinister look into a violent experience as seen through the eyes of three different people. All potentially have something to hide but in the end when the truth is revealed we see them more clearly and can perhaps even empathize with them. One thing is certain, each of them holds a key that unlocks each of the elements to reveal the diabolical and twisted turn of events that culminate in a violent and disturbing ending that just may surprise you. Its presentation on Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia Home Entertainment appears to faithfully render the film’s elements but its stylized components don’t necessarily yield high definition quality that compare to the best the format has to offer. The bonus features are just average but do include a decent making of feature that is worth checking out. I liked it and would recommend that genre fans give it a spin.
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Carada Precision Brilliant White 96" Screen
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