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HTF REVIEW: Longford

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#1 of 2 ONLINE   Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

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Posted June 04 2007 - 01:53 PM

Release Date: June 19, 2007
Studio: HBO Films
Packaging/Materials: Standard single-disc DVD case
Year: 2006
Rating: TVMA
Running Time: 1h33m
Video (Feature): 1.78:1 anamorphic
Audio (Feature): English 2.0, Spanish 2.0
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned: Feature only
MSRP: $26.98

The Feature: 5/5
Frank Longford (Jim Broadbent) is the appointed leader of Britain's House of Lords and considered by some to be the most principled politician in the country. His Catholic faith informs every part of his life, in particular his views on the penal system and those incarcerated. His prisoner reform work has earned him respect and admiration from family and colleagues, though there are some who laugh him off as a naif. The latter opinion of him starts to gain ground and join up with derision and anger when he begins visiting Myra Hindley (Samantha Morton), a convicted child serial killer. Though her partner, Ian Brady (Andy Serkis), received the same life sentence as she, public opinion towards her is particularly intense, perhaps because of her gender and expectations around the "gentler sex.
Filmed for HBO, "Longford" is riveting throughout thanks to excellent work from all players. And though the film deals with controversial issues like the penal system and prisoner rights, it's ultimately more an examination of one man's convictions than a political commentary. It will likely affirm, rather than challenge, viewers' existing beliefs, regardless of which side of the aisle they sit. The performances support the screenplay's evenhanded treatment. Broadbent's multi-layered depiction shows Longford as a man of deep conviction and faith, completely accessible but not without flaws (being too quick to trust perhaps being one of them). Lindsay Duncan as his wife Elizabeth displays a similar level of complexity, making a crucial turning point for her character feel natural and reasonable. Morton's and Serkis's turns are equally compelling, displaying disparate styles but wholly appropriate and natural for their roles. Great performances, solid and seamless direction from Tom Hooper, and a script that never sags make "Longford" recommended viewing.

Video Quality: 4/5
The film is correctly framed at 1.78:1 and free of edge halos, dust, dirt and print damage. Black levels and contrast range are very good, with satisfying shadow detail and delineation, though the image as a whole is pretty low in contrast. Colors are muted and certain scenes have an obvious stylistic color cast (e.g. blues in the prisons, warm tones in Longford's home), but it always seems appropriate to the scenes and subject matter. Picture detail is quite good, consistent in both wide and close ups, though there is visible grain at times and signs of compression artifacts. Overall a nice looking transfer.

Audio Quality: 3/5
The Dolby Stereo audio track gets the job done in a dialogue-driven film. Though some accents are harder to understand than others, voices are consistently clear and intelligible.

Special Features: 4/5

Commentary by Director Tom Hooper and Writer Peter Morgan: Hooper takes the lead through much of the commentary. Not an especially engaging track from the start, there are some long gaps and obvious statements made by the pair. Still, there are enough nuggets to keep most listeners from moving on.

"For the Record: Firsthand Accounts of the Moors Murders" Featurette (6m20s): Promotional piece for HBO that includes archival footage, soundbites from cast and crew and clips from the film. Strangely it includes the film's epilogue text, which effectively gives away what happens to the characters. I suppose those responsible figured it was the journey, not the destination, that mattered.


The Feature: 5/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3/5
Special Features: 4/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5

A compelling biopic gets a solid audio and video transfer and a lean set of extras. Don't be surprised if the film is recognized at the next Emmys and Golden Globes.

Equipment: Toshiba 42" CRT RPTV fed a 1080i signal over DVI from an Oppo 971 DVD player. Audio evaluation is based on an Onkyo TX-SR575x 5.1 AVR running JBL S26 mains and surrounds, JBL S-Center, and BFD-equalized SVS 20-39 PCi subwoofer.

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#2 of 2 OFFLINE   chas speed

chas speed

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Posted June 04 2007 - 04:29 PM

I saw this on HBO and it really is a wonderful film. Andy Serkis is especially good as a serial killer. If you missed this on HBO it is definitely worth a rental.