Seabiscuit tells the true tale of three men and one legendary racehorse. The story takes place right after the Great Depression has hit leaving many feeling the after effects. John Pollard (Tobey Maguire) is a young man who wants nothing more than to race his horse. Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) is his ‘horse whisper’ in that he seems to be able to communicate with his horses. Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) is your standard businessman at this time, completely broke. Looking for a way to get out of his hole, he dec…des to band together with these other two men after a horse named Seabiscuit gives them the idea of a lifetime. Take this relatively unknown horse to the to the extreme top. Seems rather unlikely right? If you’ve ever read the history books, you’ll know the outcome of the story and hence the film at hand.
What makes a film like this high enjoyable (more so then I expected) is not only the characters but also the story which tugs at the heart strings. This was a time when everyone was, well, depressed and didn’t know what to do. A story about three unknown men and a horse is not only moving and inspirational, but also a sign of what anyone can really do if they have faith in themselves and those around them. Consider the film is definition of the ‘American Dream’, as the film’s main message tells us that events like this can occur.
The actors portraying the three main men, were interesting choices by Director Gary Ross. Tobey Maguire, an actor who’ve I’ve always enjoyed in his smaller, unknown roles like Wonder Boys, delivers a rather fine performance here. His acting ability showcases all the necessary elements in this film. His body language and movement tells of a man who didn’t let the worlds’ events affect him, just as long as he could ride his horse. Chris Cooper and Jeff Bridges, no real shock here, delivers two amazing performances. It shames me to know that these men never truly receive the recognition they deserve. Their performances are truly terrific here. Director Gary Ross, after concluding the film, chose the three perfect actors to showcase the film’s rather depressing themes.
Don’t get me wrong, the film is purposely depressing. It is meant to tell of a time when no one knew what the next day would bring for anyone. In fact, no one knew what the next minute would bring anyone. Instead of looking at each minute and day like this, these three men rose above everything that everyone else let bother them and delivered the true feel-good, heart-wrenching story that everyone needed at a time like this. Seabiscuit is truly a great film that, gasp, may be almost too short (I almost wish it hadn’t ended).
Chalk another great transfer from the folks at Universal. Seabiscuit arrives on HD-DVD in a 1080p widescreen 2:35:1 aspect ratio. Sometimes people wonder why Universal decides to release films like this when they have such larger titles in their catalog. Seabiscuit is clearly another example of a title not many think would look as good as it does.
Colors race to your eyes at such a fast rate that clarity is never an issue. In fact, the level of color is so detailed that you can take any scene you wish (one particular scene of my choice was the initial race sequence), pause the film, walk up to your screen and look at it for a second and try to find an error. I must have starred at my screen for a few minutes attempting to find something negative. No edge enhancement, grain, washed out colors, or pixilation. In fact, there are a few scenes where one can see the little fibers on the hats of the gentlemen watching the races.
Due to the SD-DVD release boasting quite the fine visuals, Universal didn’t really have to do much to impress us on this HD release. I was quite surprised that Universal improved the image on the level they did. Images look more realistic, defining, and moving. The logo of HD-DVD is truly becoming, well, true. ‘The Look And Sound Of Perfect’ rings extremely correct in this case.
Presented in the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 (in English, Francais, or Espanol), Seabiscuit sounds amazing. A film of this nature, due to the constant pounding of the horses racing up and down the tracks, cried out for a Dolby TrueHD audio track. However, like a majority of Universal releases, they opted to exclude the TrueHD track – and trust me here, this is the only possibly shame here.
First up, the dialogue is quite clear especially in some of the powerful scenes (try any of the racing sequences). One could figure that the dialogue may become muddled or hard to hear, but such is not the case, as I never detected a problem. The best part of this track is that the surrounds are so well placed. Little items like the screams of cheering fans and the stamping of the horses’ hooves race past our in ears in quite the delightful manner. Dialogue arrives from the standard front, sometimes a bit too quite, but such is usually the case in a film like this.
The biggest item here is that the pounding sound of your sub. Granted the sub doesn’t always boom and pound, but when it needs to, you’ll hear it coming from a mile away (well, this what my neighbors said). Like I mentioned above, the only possible error even the most die-hard audiophile could find here is the exclusion of a Dolby TrueHD audio track. Nothing else is wrong on another great release from Universal.
Universal is slowly becoming my favorite release company not only because they are putting HD-DVD on the map with quality after quality release, but because they keep importing rare 2-Disc LE DVD features over with not one hiccup.
- Audio Commentary with Director Gary Ross and Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh: The two gentlemen here provide us with so much information about the making of the film, from cast selection to production, that it may require another listen through, which is rare these days. Not to mention, the two gentlemen are always a delight to listen to.
- Bringing the Legend to Life: The Making of Seabiscuit: Here’s the, unfortunately, standard making of feature that gives us the basic information on the cast, production, etc.
- Anatomy of a Movie Moment: This interview with Ross gives us an in-depth look into two scenes from the film. The only real error here is that the feature runs way too short at a mere 15 minutes which barely gives Ross enough time to discuss each scene.
- Seabiscuit: Racing Through History: This feature gives us the historical information behind the film.
- Photo Finish: Jeff Bridges’ On-Set Photographs: Here we get to see some of the fantastic photographs taken by Jeff Bridges. I was interested to learn that Bridges apparently does all the photographs on all of his films.
- Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral: The 1938 Match Race: Quite possibly the best feature available here. We get an archival look into the actual race. Talk about interesting huh!
- Winner’s Circle: The Heroes Behind The Legend: Just like the other two historical features, here we get a look into the various people who made Seabiscuit the legend he became.
- HBO First Look: Running at about 24 minutes, I considered this feature to be an expansion of the above making of. Granted it covers so of the same basics, but the feature goes into a bit more depth, which is always a plus.
- The True Story of Seabiscuit: Another historical look into the film’s main star.
If successful films like this are a sign of what Universal can deliver, imagine what films like Jurassic Park will be like when they are released. Seabiscuit delivers the all-around perfect package. Excellent video, impressive audio, fascinating features and a great film all add up to equal a must-own package. To begin this HD experience, grab your horse and ride to the nearest retailer to grab this film. When you get home, pop it in and begin to experience what HD is all about.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary with Director Gary Ross and Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh
- Bringing the Legend to Life: The Making of Seabiscuit
- Anatomy of a Movie Moment
- Seabiscuit: Racing Through History
- Photo Finish: Jeff Bridges’ On-Set Photographs
- Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral: The 1938 Match Race
- Winner’s Circle: The Heroes Behind The Legend
- HBO First Look
- The True Story of Seabiscuit