Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps) Spanish: DTS 5.1 French: DTS 5.1 French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1 … (more)
Note: Corrected from disc; DO N...
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps) Spanish: DTS 5.1 French: DTS 5.1 French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1 Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1 Russian: DTS 5.1 Czech: Dolby Digital 2.0 Hungarian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Polish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Thai: Dolby Digital 5.1 Turkish: Dolby Digital 2.0 (less) Note: Corrected from disc; DO NOT CHANGE
Don't Say a Word Blu-ray delivers great video and superb audio in this excellent Blu-ray release
A group of thieves steal a rare gem, but in the process, two of the men double cross the leader of the thieving group, Patrick, and take off with the precious stone. Ten years later, prominent psychiatrist Nathan Conrad is invited to examine a disturbed young woman named Elisabeth. Patrick immediately kidnaps Nathan's daughter, forcing Nathan to attempt to get Elisabeth to reveal a secret number which will ultimately lead Patrick to the whereabouts of the precious gem that has eluded him.
For more about Don't Say a Word and the Don't Say a Word Blu-ray release, see Don't Say a Word Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on September 22, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
When Brittany Murphy died in December 2009 at the age of 32 (of a combination of pneumonia,
anemia and, possibly, drug use), it was not a surprising development. The actress had so often
and so effectively portrayed fragile, damaged creatures on screen that her being one in real life
seemed only natural. (I know the artistic director of a theater company where Murphy performed
who tells stories of her literally needing medical attention after each performance.) While
Clueless remains her best comedy work, the eerie convergence between art and reality resulted in
Murphy's finest dramatic performance in the 2001 thriller, Don't Say a Word. Even when the
film was first released as a Michael Douglas film, it was Murphy's portrayal of a traumatized
mental patient that everyone noticed. Watching the film today, the knowledge of how little time
the actress had left adds weight to the performance, because it intensifies the question hanging in
the air at the end of the film: how can Murphy's Elisabeth Burrows find her way back from the
terrors she experienced as a little girl and everything she's had to do to protect herself since then?
The McGuffin that drives Don't Say a Word is a bank robbery, but not just any bank
robbery. In 1991, a group of armed men led by Patrick Koster (Sean Bean) rob a Brooklyn bank using
precision timing and high-tech equipment to steal a single item from a particular safe deposit
box: a rare blood-red diamond. It's never explained how the gang knew about this stone or its
location, but at a later point in the film, a cop refers to Patrick as "a ghost", which suggests
a background in intelligence. Part of Patrick's mystique as a villain is that we never really
During the robbery, two of Patrick's men double-cross him. One of them, Russel (Shawn Doyle),
swaps the diamond for a worthless bauble and disappears with his confederate. Patrick is not
Ten years later, we meet Dr. Nathan Conrad (Michael Douglas), a successful Manhattan
psychiatrist. It's the evening before Thanksgiving, and Nathan is returning home from his office
to his apartment in the Ansonia on upper Broadway, where his eight-year-old daughter, Jessie
(Skye McCole Bartusiak), and his wife, Aggie (Famke Janssen), eagerly await him. Nathan has to
do the shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, because Aggie is laid up in bed, her right leg in a
cast and traction from a skiing accident. "The downhill racer", Nathan ribs her.
(The Ansonia, by the way, is a real building, and it is exactly the kind of luxury locale where
a successful psychiatrist would reside.)
But Nathan is diverted en route by a page from a former colleague, Dr. Louis Sachs (Oliver
Platt), at Bridgeview Psychiatric Hospital. Insisting that it's an emergency, Sachs asks Nathan
to examine a patient just transferred to Bridgeview after she attacked an orderly at an upstate
facility. Nathan used to be good with such cases, and if someone can't reach her, she'll be
locked away permanently.
Nathan would rather go home, but he's already there; so he agrees to see Elisabeth Burrows
(Murphy). He quickly spots that the wild-looking creature is faking her symptoms. (He'll later
discover that she's successfully faked and been misdiagnosed with a dozen conditions over the
years.) "There's more to you than meets the eye", he tells her, but just as he's leaving, she
speaks. "You want what they want", she says calmly. "Who are they?" he asks. Her sing-song
answer became a catchphrase: "I'll never tell."
Nathan goes home to his family, but the next morning he finds his front door forced open and his
daughter missing. When he picks up the phone to call the police, the line is dead except for a
voice that we recognize as Patrick Koster's telling Nathan that has until 5:00pm to get
Elisabeth Burrows to divulge a certain number or they'll kill his daughter.
If there's a criticism to be made of director Gary Fleder's thriller, it's that the action from this
point becomes increasingly complicated, playing out in two time periods and multiple locales,
often simultaneously. Indeed, by the time Patrick calls Dr. Nathan, a police detective, Sandra
Cassidy (Jennifer Esposito), is already hot on his trail, because Patrick and his cohorts have
left a trail of bodies for Cassidy and the long-suffering coroner (Victor Argo). As Fleder acknowledges
at several points in his commentary, editing the film was a huge challenge, because it required
balancing and coordinating Cassidy's investigation, Nathan's efforts to save his daughter (which
take him to all sorts of unexpected places), the activities of the kidnappers (who, among other
things, never counted on how resourceful a little girl can be, especially a shrink's daughter),
Aggie Conrad's determination to do something, and several other elements best left for
the first-time viewer to discover.
The advantage of such complexity is that the film stands up to repeat viewing, because the
editors did their job well and the pieces fit (more or less). It helps that the performances are
so good. Douglas has always done his best work playing men who are something of a rogue, which
is precisely what Nathan Conrad must become during the course of the film, if he wants to save
Jessie. The scene where he has to get Elisabeth out of Bridgeview past a guard played by Lance
Reddick (currently the ramrod head of Fringe Division on Fringe) is particularly good, as
is his final face-off with Patrick. Janssen's refusal to make Aggie Conrad a damsel in distress makes
her determination to protect her child fierce and palpable, even when she can't move. And Bean
creates a chilling villain. They should book him if there's ever another Die
But Murphy's Elisabeth eclipses them all. The mixture of rage, anguish and desperation with
which she initially repels Nathan Conrad is movie acting at its rawest. There's nothing phony or
"actorly" about it, and it burns a hole in the screen. Then, when Nathan persuades her to drop her
guard, the real Elisabeth emerges: a child in an adult body, condemned to relive in an endless
loop a traumatic experience that holds the key to everything. You can literally see Douglas stepping back
as he and Murphy do those scenes together. Douglas is a smart actor. He knew who everyone would be watching.
The cinematographer of Don't Say a Word was the Iranian DP Amir Mokri, who began his career
in the Eighties on small films for such arthouse directors as Wayne Wang and (at the time)
Kathryn Bigelow, then graduated to big-budget fare (most recently the third Transformers film
for Michael Bay, for whom he also shot Bad Boys II). Working at the tail end of the
photochemical era, Mokri created three distinct looks for the film. For the robbery prologue, he
used "bleach bypass" processing to desaturate the negative and create an appearance signifying a
past event. For Elisabeth's childhood memories, he used reversal stock to obtain intense colors
and rough, almost harsh images, because these are not happy memories. For the rest of the film,
Mokri used standard 35mm film, but he used washes of tint to distinguish between cold,
antiseptic environments, such as Elisabeth's room at the Bridgeview facility or the coroner's
office, and warm locales like the Conrad apartment.
The 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray reproduces these varied colors and textures faithfully, with
excellent detail and black levels that accurately present Mokri's carefully balanced shadows. (In
his commentary, director Fleder penitently notes a shot where he overruled his DP by insisting
that Michael Douglas' face be fully lit, then decides he was right after all.) Grain is faintly
present if you look for it, but this is overall an elegantly smooth image, even in the reversal stock
footage, which is more likely to display blown-out whites than grain (and that's a deliberate
effect). I did not detect compression artifacts, DNR, ringing or any other distortions. This is often
a dark image, but it's a very good one.
Fleder says in his commentary that he believes in using sound to convey the subjective state of
characters, and that he encourages his sound designers to add sounds that aren't there. This
philosophy is evident before the film's first image appears, as the sounds of the subway fill the
surrounds, because the subway plays a crucial role in Elisabeth's memory. Another notable
example occurs when Nathan first realizes his daughter is missing and rushes out onto his
apartment terrace; the cacophony of the city surrounds him when he first steps outside, but in reality it would
be part of the continuum of sound long before he reached the terrace door.
The Blu-ray's DTS-HD MA 5.1 track reproduces these and many other immersive effects with
power and presence. Subways, power boats and various excavations provide interesting
opportunities for sound design, as a does a trip into Chinatown. Dialogue remains clear
throughout, and Mark Isham's score is well-reproduced. (As Fleder points out, Isham's score is
crucial at the end of the second act, where the story cuts back and forth among several different
chains of events, and the score serves as the common thread holding them together.)
Unless otherwise indicated, the video on all special features (other than commentaries) is standard
definition at 1.33:1.
Commentary by Director Gary Fleder: Fleder speaks continuously throughout the film,
and he is an engaging speaker. He begins by noting that he is recording the commentary
on October 12, 2001, and that the film was released in theaters on Sept. 28, after much
debate among the filmmakers and the studio about whether to postpone release in light of
the events of 9/11. Ultimately, they went ahead, but Fleder himself made the decision to
replace certain shots of New York in the earlier part of the film, when the audience would
be "settling in" with the story, so that the Twin Towers did not appear. They still appear
in later shots, when the plot has already gained momentum.
Fleder covers a wide variety of subjects, including script development, casting, the
limited prep time for this particular film (which precluded any rehearsal), his
approach to directing, his influences (for this film, he especially looked to
Marathon Man and the original The Taking of Pelham One Two Three) and what
Fleder calls "the magic of film" in mixing footage shot months apart in different
locations. (The film was shot in New York and Toronto.) Fleder's approach to
editing is unusual. He despises "rough cuts", preferring to edit as he shoots (which
is why he needs two editors), so that he finds out immediately if he's missing
something. When production wraps, he and his editors are ready to begin fine-tuning.
With optional French or Spanish subtitles.
Scene Specific Actor Commentaries
Michael Douglas: "First Meeting" & "Lost Child": Douglas discusses his
history with the project, working with Fleder and acting with Murphy and Janssen.
Sean Bean: "Heist" & "The Trench": Bean's two scenes occur at the beginning
and end of the film. During the first scene, he talks about his approach to Patrick
Koster (and villains generally). During the second, which was one of the few he
shared with Douglas in person (instead of over the phone), he discusses that
Famke Janssen: "The Phone Call" & "Escape": Janssen says she did the film to
work with Douglas, but comments on Sean Bean's generosity in supplying a
performance at the other end of the telephone line. She also discusses the
challenge of playing a character who is immobilized.
Brittany Murphy: "Connection" & "Subway Nightmare": It's fascinating, even a
little eerie, to hear Murphy describe playing Elisabeth as "freeing", but her
description of how characters take her over is consistent with both Fleder's and
Douglas' description of her instinctive acting process. Murphy makes an astute
point when she notes that there are three versions of the character: the one she
reads in the script, the one she experiences during filming, and the one she sees in
the completed film.
Oliver Platt: "Office Intrustion" & "Confrontation": Platt discusses working
with Douglas and some of the finer points of his Sachs character.
Making Of Featurette (7:55): This is more informative than the usual EPK, and since it
has substantially more spoilers, one would hope that it wasn't used for pre-release
publicity. It contains interesting on-set footage as well as interviews with Fleder,
Kopelson, Douglas, Murphy, Janssen and young Skye McCole Bartusiak.
Cinema Master Class
Screen Test: Brittany Murphy (6:28): Murphy reads opposite Douglas, and
the result is ever bit as riveting as in the finished film.
Storyboard to Screen Comparisons (10:07): Two scenes are included: the
bank heist and potter's field.
Producing Workshop with the Kopelsons (7:32): Arnold and Anne
Kopelson discuss their long history of producing movies (including
Platoon, The Fugitive and Se7en).
You Are There (7:47): These short features focus on production design,
using on-set footage with picture-in-picture commentary by Fleder. Three
sets are discussed: the hospital, the subway and the boat dock.
Screening Room Dailies: Aggie Escapes (SD; 2.35:1): Nine takes are
includes, along with the fifty-second completed scene from the film. For
some reason, there is no "play all" feature, so that each angle must be
selected and played separately.
Set Tour with Production Designer Nelson Coates (5:42): The amiable
production designer points out details of the elaborate Conrad apartment
set (built on a Toronto soundstage); the Toronto subway station dressed to
recreate the Canal Street IRT stop circa 1991; and a complex soundstage
design simulating a portion of a huge graveyard.
Conversation with Director Gary Fleder (7:01): For some reason,
although this featurette is included under "Post-Production", the bulk of
the conversation is about acting and how Fleder deals with actors on the
Thriller Themes (5:18): Fleder discusses his work with Mark Isham, but
the bulk of this feature is simply a split screen of a scoring session and the
scene from the film that is being scored.
Inside a Sequence: Trench Sequence (1:43): Storyboards and animated
"pre-vis" footage of the film's most demanding action sequence.
Deleted Scenes (SD; 2:35:1, non-enhanced; 3:00): There are three short, minor
scenes, of which perhaps the most interesting is the one that indicates Patrick's
history of claustrophobia.
It's sad to listen to commentaries and interviews recorded in 2000 and 2001 praising Brittany
Murphy and predicting her bright future. She continued to work, but she never again appeared in
the kind of dramatic role of which she was clearly capable, and none of the comedies she made
after this film used her talents to the full extent. That her finest work was delivered in what amounts to a glossy "B"
movie shouldn't diminish the achievement. The film is highly recommended, and so is the
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