Any Given Sunday: Director’s Cut (Blu-ray)
Directed by Oliver Stone
Studio: Warner Bros.
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:11080pVC-1 codec
Running Time: 157 minutes
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish, German, Italian
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, German, others
MSRP: $ 28.95
Release Date: January 27, 2009
Review Date: January 21, 2009
Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday is the best film ever made about the sport of professional football. Typical of the director’s kinetic style, the film is overproduced and directed with an operatic fervor. It tries to tell too many stories, only fully succeeding with a couple of them. Still, it’s never dull (it would be hard for Stone to make a dull film; he’s too galvanizing for that), and it holds one’s interest throughout its overlong (but ironically not long enough for all the stories it wants to tell) 157 minutes.
Desperately trying to make the playoffs for the year-ending championship game, the Miami Sharks are led by longtime head coach Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino), a grizzled veteran of the game who’s brought the team two previous championships. But the team is going through a down cycle as the season approaches its end, and things go from bad to worse when top quarterback Jack 'Cap' Rooney (Dennis Quaid) sustains an injury and the back-up quarterback is subsequently injured in his first play. Thus, it falls to green third string quarterback Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx) to come off the bench and get things done. Surprising for a story about professional sports, he isn’t immediately successful, but once victories do come, ego and bad blood follow causing a near mutiny among his team members while team owner Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz) finds herself with a recalcitrant coach, star player, play caller (Aaron Eckhart), warring team physicians (James Woods, Matthew Modine), and even a mother (Ann-Margret) who doubts she has what it takes to be a team owner.
Squeezed into this two-and-a-half hour drama are half a dozen stories: the team’s harrowing series of games against fierce competition, the coach’s, the owner’s, the two different quarterbacks, assorted other members of the offense and defense whose injuries and desire to play for the glory or the gold; all of these drive the narrative ever forward at a breakneck pace. However, the screenplay by John Logan and Oliver Stone is just too packed for its own good with some stories with particularly interesting premises (the rocky marriage of Jack Rooney with a wife (Lauren Holly) more ambitious than he is, for example) not given nearly enough focus to warrant their inclusion, while the saga of Beaman‘s sudden rise to fame and the raging ego that accompanies it has been done to death in many sports pictures with the treatment here offering nothing new. Stone handles the gridiron sequences with all the balletic brutality for which they’re known, even if he does stretch out those agonizing last plays of the final game to the breaking point. Elsewhere, he does his usual maze of windowed overlays throughout the movie continuing his style of almost hypnotic electronic overkill, often effective but sometimes oppressively overwrought.
Al Pacino may not be the whole show in Any Given Sunday, but his is the performance one remembers. Electric, intense, sometimes overdone, Pacino is a force of nature (that locker room speech before the last game is just one of his many tours de force in the film) who eats up and spits out the wimpy businesswoman of Cameron Diaz, miscast as the (supposedly) hard-as-nails daughter subbing for dear departed daddy. Jamie Foxx can deliver the ego-driven, charismatic quarterback effortlessly and does so, offering in particular an exciting face-off with Pacino over dinner that builds to an electrifying fever pitch. John McGinley has some great moments as a smarmy sports reporter, and both James Woods and Matthew Modine get a couple of moments to shine as the doctors who disagree about medical treatment for the players. LL Cool J, Lawrence Taylor, and Andrew Bryniarski impress as fellow players with their own agendas.
The film’s 2.40:1 original theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in 1080p using the VC-1 codec. The quality runs the gamut from gloriously sharp images at some points to overblown, blooming images at other points. Some scenes are a bit soft while others are spot-on. Overall, it’s a pleasing high definition image, but it’s far from the best Blu-ray images I’ve seen. The film is divided into 47 chapters.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track is impressive without being quite reference quality. Though the football sequences raise the noise levels to room shaking extremes (including some impressive deep bass on occasion), other moments that should have had sported more active surrounds are disappointing.
There are two audio commentaries available for listening. Oliver Stone contributes a typically slow and steady stream of talk though he often describes what we're seeing on the screen. His stories about the lack of cooperation from the NFL in the making of the film are particularly interesting. Jamie Foxx has a more laid back conversation and is certainly more me-centered in his comments. Both start and stop frequently. Stone's commentary goes almost to the end of the disc. Foxx's doesn't.
"Full Contact: The Making of Any Given Sunday" is the HBO "First Look" EPK for the film. Comments from Oliver Stone and stars Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, LL Cool J, John McGinley, and James Woods all praise the project and especially star Al Pacino (who is nowhere to be heard). This documentary runs for 27 minutes in 480i.
Jamie Foxx's football audition tape and two screen test scenes are available for viewing separately or in one 6 ¾ minute grouping. They are all in 480i.
There are fourteen deleted or extended scenes which can be viewed separately or in one 32 ½-minute chunk. They're in 480i and some also offer optional commentary from director Oliver Stone.
The gag reel for the movie is in 480i and runs 4 minutes.
A football outtakes montage contains clips from the training sequences as well as footage from the film's staged games with music from the film used as background. This 480i montage runs 8 ½ minutes.
Another montage of miscellaneous landscapes contains more game footage and fly-overs cut from the film. It runs 3 ½ minutes in 480i.
There are sixteen music only (in Dolby Digital 5.1) tracks from the film in 1080p. They can be viewed individually or in one 30 ¾-minute grouping. They're all in 1080p.
Ten of the football game sequences are available for "instant replay." All are in 1080p.
There is a theatrical poster slide show which also features background music from the film.
A stills gallery is also available.
There are three music videos: LL Cool J's "Shut "Em Down" and Jamie Foxx's "My Name Is Willie" and "Any Given Sunday." They may be watched individually or in one 8 ¾-minute grouping. These are presented in 480p.
The film's original theatrical trailer runs for 2 ½ minutes and is in 480p.
The Blu-ray package contains a digital copy of the film which can be downloaded to either PC or Mac formats.
A riveting sports movie that rises above its overproduction to engage the audience completely, Any Given Sunday gets a very good Blu-ray transfer and an impressive slate of extras. Recommended!