The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by John McTiernan
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 113 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 Spanish, French, many others
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French, many others
MSRP: $ 24.99
Release Date: April 6, 2010
Review Date: April 7, 2010
While most remakes of films don’t match the quality of the original effort, there have been exceptions: John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon, for example, far surpassed the two previous attempts at filming the original novel. John McTiernan’s The Thomas Crown Affair, a remake of the 1968 original directed by Norman Jewison and starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, is another remake which leaves its progenitor in the dust. Where the original movie was all about chic style and cool suavity, the 1999 version trades that surface style for real feelings and characters who seem flesh and blood and not glamorous ciphers. What’s more, it takes the caper genre and turns it into a cat and mouse escapade involving human emotions rather than being just about a heist or a con job.
Bored billionaire Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) sets up an elaborate heist of a prized Monet original from a museum and gets away with it with the same impeccable ease that he seals deals with businessmen while taking them to the cleaners. Investigating the theft is insurance investigator Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) who in no time at all finds enough clues to suspect Crown’s guilt but no evidence on which to arrest him. As she circles him using every ounce of her sexual prowess to lower his guard, she finds herself deeply attracted to him thus posing the dilemma of whether to ditch the investigation and live a pampered life with him or continue to do her job for her company. But is Crown, a master manipulator himself, actually falling for her or does he have his own plan at work?
The script, a reworking of the original story by Alan R. Trustman, finds writers Leslie Dixon and Kurt Wimmer investing much more time in the character interaction between the two protagonists thus making the viewer care tremendously about the deepening emotions both of them are undergoing. There are depths to the characters that still aren’t touched on, but what we are given is so much more than the 1968 caper provided that the audience’s emotional investment in the story is tripled. Rather than relying on the flashy split screen storytelling of the original movie, director John McTiernan instead keeps the cameras in the faces of Brosnan and Russo as well as police detective Michael McCann (Denis Leary) who’s wary that Catherine will let her emotions outweigh her common sense and let Crown escape. He’s also fond of pulling the camera up and over the heads of the actors giving us bird’s eye views of their movements at pertinent plot points in the movie. The running time seems padded a bit to give us a super-sexy dance between Brosnan and Russo and seemingly gratuitous and undoubtedly generous views of both of their beautifully sculpted physiques in various states of undress, as gorgeous as the sculptures that adorn Crown’s palatial home. And, in retrospect, we realize the heist plot and its investigation and ultimate resolution is a fairly thin story; these two beautiful people who should have the world at their feet but who are each achingly lonely until they discover one another is actually the real show.
Pierce Brosnan’s Bond stardom at the time of this film’s production forced him to come up with a completely different characterization for Thomas Crown, and he’s more than adequate at squelching those Bond mannerisms in crafting this new character, confident but a bit detached from the rest of the world. Rene Russo has the harder of the two leading roles as she must tightrope walk being the utter professional and balance that with that inner yearning for this charming and completely disarming man who’s as equally clever and cunning as she. Denis Leary makes a solid impression as the all business police detective abetted by Frankie Faison’s equally dedicated but slightly less rigid detective. Sadly, Ben Gazarra as Crown’s lawyer is wasted in a nothing role. Popping in for a fun cameo is the original film’s Faye Dunaway here playing Crown’s psychiatrist with whom he shares his mistrust of women and love.
The film’s Panavision theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Color is beguilingly natural in this transfer with equally accurate and appealing flesh tones. While there are occasional soft shots and shots where lowered contrast flattens out the image, most of the video quality meets expectations for sharpness and detail. Black levels are also very good. The film has been divided into 36 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does an excellent job placing Bill Conti’s bouncy score (and various versions of the original’s Oscar-winning song “The Windmills of Your Mind”) around the soundfield along with a host of split sounds to fill in the front and rear channels including front to back pans of helicopters and gliders flying over and other traffic noises and sounds while sailing that add ambiance to the transfer’s audio quality. If it isn’t as immersive or as expansive as more up-to-date soundtracks, it’s still an impressive effort that home viewers should enjoy.
There are no bonus features at all on the Blu-ray disc, not even trailers of upcoming or previous releases.
However, also contained in the package is a double-sided DVD version of the movie (with anamorphic widescreen and full frame versions offered). On this disc are the bonus features for the package.
Director John McTiernan contributes a patchy audio commentary which starts and stops but which has some good information about the film’s production and working with the stars. It’s a shame the commentary couldn’t have been attached to the Blu-ray version of the movie, but it is at least in the package.
The original theatrical trailers for the 1999 and the 1968 versions of the movie are also provided on the disc. They each run a little over 2 minutes.
3.5/5 (not an average)
While the film is deserving of a more comprehensive handling than it receives in this minimal Blu-ray release (though the pricing is reflective of the barebones nature of the package), The Thomas Crown Affair is at least now available in high definition. It’s an engaging, adult love story contained within a caper scenario which adds an extra layer of fun to the proceedings. Recommended!