Studio: HBO Home Entertainment
Packaging/Materials: Blu-ray keepcase with slipcover
Running Time: 1:57:52
|THE FEATURE||SPECIAL FEATURES|
|Video||AVC: 1080p high definition 1.78:1||Standard and high definition|
|Audio||DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / DTS: French 5.1, Spanish 2.0||Dolby Digital: English 2.0|
|Subtitles||English SDH, French, Spanish||Various|
The Feature: 4/5After coming from behind to capture the 2008 Republican Primary nomination for President, John McCain (Ed Harris) and his campaign advisors, headed by veteran strategist Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson), are looking to identify a running mate who will help secure the Presidency. McCain favors Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman (Austin Pendleton), but despite the boldness and symbolism of a bipartisan ticket, it would ultimately prove too divisive for the party. The conservative alternatives have all been vetted, but do nothing to draw in female voters, where McCain is struggling the most. So the search turns to finding a female running mate, with one name quickly rising to the top – Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore).
At first the Governor seems like everything they’re looking for – poised, confident, and committed to supporting McCain’s campaign no matter what is asked of her. But a rushed vetting process, and an overeagerness for her to fit the bill, blinds everyone to her shortcomings until it’s too late. The overwhelmingly positive reaction to her initial appearance on the national stage also gives the campaign team false hope, until those working closest to her begin to see her limits. It’s not long before the world sees them too, when one-on-one interviews reveal her alarming ignorance of U.S. foreign policy and global politics. Dropping her from the ticket is not an option, however, so Schmidt and his team must find a way to make things work, even though that means promoting a candidate they know they shouldn’t have picked in the first place.
Adapted from several chapters of John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s book documenting the 2008 presidential election, “Game Change” (directed by Jay Roach and written by Danny Strong) has all the makings for a scathing commentary on the McCain-Palin campaign and Palin in particular. But rather than demonize those depicted, the film humanizes them, showing it was the desperate (and rather simplistic) desire to win that led to one of the most sizable campaign missteps in American politics. Palin inevitably comes off least sympathetically, starting off as blissfully ignorant of the demands about to be placed on her to a political diva gone rogue by the final act. But even so, one can’t help but feel sorry for her as she’s pushed into the deep end and is quickly in over her head. Moore’s portrayal, which garnered her a Golden Globe award, never verges on parody, though the limitations of the script never give us more than what we already knew about the former governor. Harris as McCain never quite evokes the spirit of the Arizona senator, but ultimately Palin’s primary foil in the film is Harrelson’s Schmidt, who embodies the hopes and disappointments of the candidate and his campaign. It’s in those final stages of the election that the events feel a bit over-compressed or rushed, though for the most part the film upholds its promise to go behind the scenes of a story whose ending we already know. While “Game Change” won’t alter anyone’s opinion about what happened back in 2008, it should prove accessible to most viewers for its lack of political rhetoric and overt partisan views.
Video Quality: 5/5Framed at 1.78:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer features inky black levels, rich color, and a full and uncompromised range of contrast. Fine object detail is impeccable in things like skin, hair and fabrics, and scenes that can often be a challenge for video compressors show no signs of artifacts or noise. Inserts of various media sources – from broadcast HDTV to clips from YouTube – show the expected loss in detail, but that only makes the core footage shot on the Arri Alexa digital system look that much more impressive.
Audio Quality: 4/5Dialogue in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is pleasingly crisp, detailed and intelligible. Surround channels provide balanced and seamless support for the soundtrack and the occasional environmental effect (usually crowd noises), but for the most part it’s a center channel or front array affair. LFE is essentially non-existent, but the track has consistent depth and dynamic range.
Special Features: 2/5The bonus material offers little that’s in-depth; surprising given the nature of the story. The digital copy options provide some needed filler, though there’s no getting around that it’s a spartan collection of extras.
Pre-Menu Trailer for HBO Films and Mini Series (1:45, HD)
Creating a Candidate (7:26, HD): “Game Change” authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, and political pundits and correspondents discuss the stresses and demands placed on anyone running for political office at the national level. The piece provides few insights, tending to make obvious statements about the challenging campaign process.
Game Change: The Phenomenon (4:27, HD): Director Jay Roach, screenwriter Danny Strong, and authors Heilemann and Halperin talk about adapting the “Game Change” book into a film, and the decision to focus specifically on the McCain-Palin campaign.
DVD Copy: Presented with 1.78:1 anamorphic video; Dolby Digital English 5.1, French 5.1, and Spanish 2.0 audio; and English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese subtitle options. The special features mirror those on the Blu-ray disc.
Digital Copy: Available via iTunes, Vudu or Flixster (UltraViolet), the digital copy offer expires on April 16, 2015.
Recap and RecommendationThe Film: 4/5
Video Quality: 5/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 2/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5
HBO Home Video turns in a fantastic presentation for “Game Change,” a look behind the curtain of the 2008 McCain-Palin presidential campaign. The bonus material is sorely lacking in depth, but the strength of the feature – especially for political junkies – makes the title worthy of at least a rental.