Release Date: November 18, 2008
THE BORDER SEASON ONE DVD SET
( out of )
I have heard The Border described as a combination of 24, CSI, and Law and Order. This description is apropos since The Border has all of the elements that I enjoy most from those other TV shows. The Border is the story of the elite Immigration and Customs Security (ICS) squad operating out of Toronto, Canada. The cast of characters are ICS members whose job it is to regulate the longest undefended border in the world, which is the border between the United States and Canada. The dramatic problems of enforcing border security include terrorism and smuggling of everything from uranium and firearms to drugs and people.
The ICS Squad is headed by Major Mike Kessler (James McGowan), a former Canadian Army soldier who served as a peacekeeper in Bosnia in the 1990s. Superintendent Maggie Norton (Catherine Disher) is Kessler’s second in command who has been his friend for many years before they served together. Detective Sergeant Gray Jackson (Graham Abbey) is often Kessler’s eyes and ears on the ground as he goes out into the field, sometimes undercover, sometimes in uniform. Gray is often teamed up with Sergeant Layla Hourani (Nazneen Contractor), a Muslim ICS officer who speaks seven languages, and who has some romantic tension with Gray. Detective Sergeant Al “Moose” Lepinsky (Mark Wilson) served formerly with the Toronto Police’s Fugitive Squad, and now acts as the liaison with local police agencies. Inspector Darnell Williams (Jim Codrington) is an ex CSIS (Canadian Security and Intelligence Service) agent who was stationed abroad in Africa and now works for ICS. Agent Heironymous Slade (Jonas Chernick) is the squad’s resident computer expert who accesses surveillance feeds and satellite links, and hacks into other mainframes according to the squad’s needs at any given time. Special Agent Bianca Lagarda (Sofia Milos) is an American stationed in Toronto as the local head of the Department of Homeland Security.
As in other shows in this genre, conflict arises not only between ICS and the terrorists and criminals it is seeking, but also between ICS and other agencies as their respective goals come into opposition. Some conflict arises between Kessler and Special Agent Lagarda, since the Department of Homeland Security sometimes has different priorities from their Canadian counterparts. Kessler also butts heads with Andrew Mannering, a CSIS spook who has his own agenda, and with whom Kessler has a history going back to his service in Bosnia.
This set consists of 13 full length episodes on 3 discs, with the special features located primarily on disc 3.
( out of )
The video is anamorphic wide-screen 1:78:1 enhanced for 16 x 9 monitors, except for the special features which are primarily in a 1:33:1 screen ratio. The video quality on the individual episodes is fine. The Border is filmed with a documentary look, and the picture is intentionally out of focus at times, and the camera is constantly moving similar to NYPD Blue or Law and Order to convey that sense of handheld cameras filming everything as it actually happens. The color scheme is muted which is apparently deliberate and not the sign of a poor transfer.
( out of )
The Dolby Prologic II audio track makes you feel like you are right in the middle of things whenever there are firearms or vehicles in the action sequences. Most audio comes through front and center with minor enhancement from the rear speakers for incidental sounds of traffic and the like. The only flaw in the audio is in the special features, specifically the cast interviews, in which the actors’ voices come through all of the speakers in surround sound instead of from the center channel.
( out of )
Disc 3 contains all of the special features, with the exception of the audio commentary on the pilot episode, which is on Disc 1. James McGowan (Major Mike Kessler), writers and producers Peter Raymont and Janet McLean, and director John Fawcett provide optional audio commentary regarding filming the pilot episode. I was surprised to learn that The Border was actually allowed to film part of the pilot on location in Toronto’s Pearson Airport. The producers of The Border were provided a rare opportunity for location shooting when they were granted permission to film in a newly built terminal that was not yet open to the public.
The special features on Disc 3 are as follows:
The Undefended Border (23:06): This is 2 separate excerpts from the documentary The Undefended Border, which features interviews and some interesting COPS-style footage of a takedown of a fugitive performed by the ICS/RCMP taskforce.
Behind the Scenes Interviews (6:10): Features interviews with some of the cast members.
Season One Trailer (1:32): Trailer produced as a short preview of the premiere of The Border.
( out of overall)
I was not sure what to expect from The Border but it exceeded my expectations in every respect. The acting, writing, and production values are all topnotch, and compare favorably to the best of American television. The Border has all of the action and intrigue that I always enjoyed on 24 but which have been missing, in my opinion, from the last few seasons of 24. The second season just finished airing in Canada on the CBC network, and I cannot wait until the second season is released on DVD. I am informed that Grace Park (Sharon on Battlestar Galactica) joins the cast in season two as Agent Liz Carver of the Department of Homeland Security, and I am interested to see how her addition will change the dynamic of the cast. If you are a fan of shows like MI-5 or 24, then The Border is definitely worth a look. I know that I would watch this show every week if it were airing on American television.