Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: High Crimes

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Sep 2, 2009.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer

    Apr 24, 2006
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    Charlotte, NC
    Real Name:
    Matt Hough
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    High Crimes (Blu-ray)

    Directed by Carl Franklin

    Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
    Year: 2002
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 115 minutes
    Rating: PG-13
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, 3.0 Spanish
    Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 29.99

    Release Date: September 1, 2009
    Review Date: September 2, 2009
    The Film
    Courtroom thrillers can be, when well done, among the most gripping and involving of movie genres. From Anatomy of a Murder to Witness for the Prosecution; The Verdict to Judgment at Nuremberg, a good courtroom drama can hook an audience and not let go. Carl Franklin’s High Crimes might not be the most outstanding example of the genre (in fact, all four films named above are markedly superior), but on its own, it does a fine job with capturing the audience’s attention with a horrific crime and then peeling away layer after layer of evidence both important and circumstantial until the truth is reached. The chemistry of the major players also goes a long way toward helping the mystery (which is relatively easy to solve if one stops to think about it for a few minutes).
    Rising star lawyer Claire Kubik (Ashley Judd) is horrified to learn that her husband Tom (Jim Caviezel) has been living for over a decade in hiding with a false name and is wanted by the military for the murders of nine civilians in El Salvador in 1988. With her husband brought up on charges before a military tribunal for which she’s ill prepared to help in his defense, she seeks assistance from experienced-but-shambling attorney Grimes (Morgan Freeman), an old hand at dealing with the military protocol that makes military cases much trickier minefields to maneuver than those in civil courts. Fighting her own doubts about her husband’s innocence as well as her partner’s previous alcoholism and a green military attorney (Adam Scott) assigned to her who’s more interested in dating her party girl sister (Amanda Peet), Claire has her work cut out for her.
    Carl Franklin’s meat and potatoes direction gets the job done without any pyrotechnics which might have brought a bit more zippy pacing to the well trod machinations of Yuri Zeltser and Cary Bickley’s script (based on the novel by Joseph Finder). The plot keeps grinding forward: for every added bit of evidence that should topple the house of cards that the prosecution is holding, the judge (Jude Ciccolella) or the prosecutor (Michael Gaston) finds a way to get it disallowed. However, the film is fighting a couple of previous courtroom dramas where female attorneys defend loved ones (Jagged Edge, Music Box) which happen to share some of the same climactic revelations that this movie attempts to pull off thus limiting its surprises for those who haven’t seen the same set-ups in these very similar previous films. High Crimes sports a handsome production and a raft of excellent actors, but the déjà vu quality of the storytelling and the somewhat laggard pacing keep it inevitably from achieving a complete triumph.
    Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman are reunited here after demonstrating marked chemistry together in Kiss the Girls. In this film, Freeman’s easygoing ambiance makes him the more appealing of the two leads despite Judd’s increased amount of screen time in comparison (she gets top billing, reversing their positions from the previous film). She certainly gets some showcase moments of emotion, but she has to be so hard and resolute through much of the movie that the performance begins to ossify occasionally. Jim Caviezel gets to demonstrate additional emotional colors as more information about him filters through the movie. Amanda Peet is wasted (and somewhat irritating) as the wastrel sister though pairing her with the ingratiating Adam Scott was probably a good idea to give her some reason for being in the movie. Bruce Davison as a general who’s not being quite honest about the operation which caused the deaths in the first place has a couple of good scenes while Juan Carlos Hernandez as an enigmatic major also adds color and mystery to the story.
    Video Quality
    The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is offered in 1080p using the AVC codec. The El Salvador scenes have been softened with added grain and oversaturated color and certainly look quite a bit different from the modern day scenes. Some of the first present day scenes feature images that are too brown with somewhat drab colors but after those sequences, images take on a more normal look and detail is crisp and appealing. Black levels are about a shade below optimum but still look very nice. The film has been divided into 36 chapters.
    Audio Quality
    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix has the abundant dialogue placed properly in the center channel, and otherwise directs the nice Graeme Revell music score primarily through the front soundstage with some bleed to the rears. The one real surround sound showpiece in the movie, an unexpected automobile accident due to sabotage, gets wonderful surround treatment in the available channels which otherwise don’t see as much use as they might have.
    Special Features
    Director Carl Franklin contributes a chatty audio commentary in which he describes his philosophy of filmmaking thoroughly, mentions some of his previous hits, and then turns to scene specific comments about the movie.
    All of the bonus featurettes are presented in 480i.
    “A Military Mystery” finds the author of the original novel, Joe Finder, discussing his views on the adaptation of his book for the screen. His interview runs for 7 ¼ minutes.
    “FBI Takedown in Union Square” features behind-the-scenes shots of the staging and shooting of the arrest sequence of Judd and Caviezel early in the movie. This lasts 3 ½ minutes.
    “A Different Kind of Justice” features attorney Alice Cate discussing the similarities and differences between civil and military courts in an interesting featurette that runs 5 minutes.
    “Liar, Liar” finds expert Sue Coulette explaining the procedures and results of polygraph testing and notes how experts have been able to stymie its results. This vignette runs 6 minutes.
    “The Car Crash” features 2 minutes of storyboards and behind-the-scenes footage shooting the actors and stunt people involved in the crash sequence in the movie. It ends with a split screen playing of the crash from two points of view.
    “Together Again” has the director, the producers, and the supporting cast discussing working with Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman along with the actors themselves discussing their chemistry together. This feature runs 7 ½ minutes.
    The film’s theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.
    In Conclusion
    3.5/5 (not an average)
    High Crimes is a good but not great courtroom drama. Featuring good audio and video quality and extras which have been ported over from previous DVD releases of the movie, the Blu-ray will likely please fans of the film and make for an entertaining rental for those who like this kind of murder mystery.
    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC
  2. Mark Booth

    Mark Booth Screenwriter

    Aug 25, 1999
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    I plan to add High Crimes to my collection as soon as I'm able to buy it for $15 or less. Catalog title! I can wait 2 years if need be.


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