Software Reviews

DVD: The Recruit—Buena Vista
Video: 3
Audio: 3
Extras: 3
Al Pacino and Colin Farrell star in The Recruit, an entertaining albeit predictable spy thriller about the supposed CIA training camp called the Farm. The chemistry between Pacino, Farrell, and female lead Bridget Moynahan is enjoyable, but the film's nothing-is-as-it-seems theme could have been borrowed from the Michael Douglas film The Game.

The Recruit's 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is reasonably sharp and colorful, although it's plagued by an overall bluish cast. For example, the computer monitors and television displays are excessively blue. The audio includes Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in English and French and a DTS version in English. I did most of my listening in Dolby Digital 5.1 and heard appropriate but subtle use of the surround and low-frequency channels.

The commentary by Farrell and director Roger Donaldson is mildly amusing. They're not very enthusiastic about watching the film again, let alone commenting on it, and they admit as much. A behind-the-scenes discussion with the CIA consultant proves to be far more interesting for spook buffs, as he discusses which parts of the film are accurate and which aren't. Deleted-for-a-reason scenes are included, as expected. Overall, the disc makes an excellent rental.—Mike Wood

DVD: The Pianist—Universal
Video: 5
Audio: 4
Extras: 3
Many outstanding films have depicted both the grace and ungrace that gripped humanity during the Holocaust, but The Pianist does so with an honesty that's made possible only through two men's commitment to objectively portray their experiences in the Polish ghettos. Director Roman Polanski stays true to composer/pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman's detailed autobiographical account of his time in the Warsaw ghetto, but Polanski's own persecution in the Cracow ghetto plays a major role in how he presents the story. Epic in its understatement, The Pianist shows tremendous respect for its audience by refusing to manipulate our sensibilities. Where other directors would cut away to a montage set to melodramatic music, Polanski stays with the quiet moment. Where other screenwriters would abandon the first-person perspective to offer exposition and character motivation, Ronald Harwood keeps us anchored to Szpilman. Where other actors would feel compelled to overact to compensate for the character's inability to act, Adrien Brody reveals a world of emotion through simple facial and demeanor changes. The resulting realism makes this tale painfully and beautifully personal.

The DVD's 1.85:1 anamorphic picture is stunning without being flashy. Thematically, the colors fade as hope dims, but the picture is artifact-free and incredibly detailed. While sub and surround use are minimal, the DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks ably re-create the dialogue and vital musical passages. The 40-minute feature "A Story of Survival" complements the film nicely. In every way, this is a wonderful presentation that belongs in your collection.—Adrienne Maxwell