The War tells the story of newly returned Vietnam soldier Stephen Simmons (Kevin Costner). Steve is the father of Stu (Elijah Woods) and Lidia (Lexi Randall) and wants nothing more than to show them the meaning of life and what it (really what HE) can provide them. The only problem is that Steve isnâ€™t getting the adequate funds a soldier should receive. Bouncing from job to job because of his mental history (heâ€™s had numerous flashbacks to the war), the family struggles daily to survive. The children seem to be mixed on their father with Stu loving him, but Lidia calling him a loser.
What the Simmons family doesnâ€™t realize is that soon a simple, old tree house will bring them closer than any of them have ever been.
The War was made at a time when Costner was the king in cinema with such highlights as JFK and A Perfect World. The manâ€™s great acting continues here as he brings a fine depth to his character of Steve. We see the everyday pain and struggle he and his family feel and endure, not only because of the lack of support the government isnâ€™t giving him a soldier, but also the physical and mental anguish the horror of war (and the horror of seeing his best friend die) is causing him. Elijah Woodâ€™s character of Stu also was a hint at the type of actor Wood was maturing into. He brings a sense of childhood and innocence into his role not really understanding (until the moving ending) what is father is trying to teach him. He believes in standing up for himself (we see this via the fights he gets into with the local boys) and his family name. The rest of the filmâ€™s characters felt somewhat generic to me with Lidia kind of being there as the standard non-believer in her father, obviously until the very end. The mother also felt somewhat bland not really doing much for me.
The biggest strength to this film (as mentioned above) that helps to catapult it higher than it normally would ever sit, is the quality of acting from Costner and Wood. Both turn in fine performances adding a real sense of pain and realism to their roles. Before receiving this film, with the title of The War, I figured this was some type of cheesy film about a stupid war between neighbors. While that portion is definitely present, the bigger war is the war Steve faces not only with the government, but also with himself over what transpired during his Vietnam service. And that portion of the film helps to make this one quite enjoyable.
Presented in a 1080p, VC-1 Encoded, 1:85:1 Widescreen Aspect Ratio, The War boasts a fine transfer for a catalogue title.
Color usage was fine with many of the filmâ€™s colors popping off the screen. The filmâ€™s color palette contained mostly lighter colors like oranges, blues, greens and reds are alive and vivid. Detail, on the other hand, goes from excellent to somewhat questionable. It almost seemed like each scene received a different encoding as some scenes were fantastic (I enjoyed the great view when the kids were on top of the water tower) and some were mixed (the flashback Vietnam sequences were odd and too dark). Grain was present during the flashbacks and in some of the night sequences, but never became overly annoying. All in all, this is a fine transfer.
Arriving with a rare Dolby TrueHD as well as the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio tracks, The War also contains a fine audio experience that most will appreciate as it helps to accentuate the film and its themes.
For this run through the film, I listened to the TrueHD. Afterwards I watched a few of my favorite sequences with the Plus 5.1 track and boy did I notice a nice improvement. The TrueHD track boasted finer dialogue, more robust surrounds and crisper dynamics. I particularly enjoyed how well placed the discrete effects were towards the ending of the film were the two teams are fighting over the tree house. The mini-explosions of the glass and fires sounded great. Dialogue was simple and clear. The TrueHD allowed a few tough dialogue sequences (the initial talk between Steve and Stu sounded somewhat muddled with the Plus 5.1) that extra necessary increase in quality. All in all, I enjoyed this one for what its worth.
Nothing here folks, unless you count the standard â€˜My Scenesâ€™ as a feature.
As an HD DVD release, Universal has given The War a decent package with good video and convincing audio. Carrying itself on the strength of the acting of Woods and Costner, I would have enjoyed at least one or two documentaries. But I guess one canâ€™t complain since the original SD counterpart had nothing. Fans will want to pick this one up as the film is enjoyable while the rest will be safe with a rental.