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The tale of three lost men--Johnny "Red" Pollard, a young man whose spirit has been broken; Charle Howard, a millionaire who lost everything; and Tom Smith, a cowboy whose world was vanishing--who found each other and discovered hope in a down-and-out racehorse named Seabiscuit, who took them and the nation on the ride of a lifetime.
For more about Seabiscuit and the Seabiscuit Blu-ray release, see Seabiscuit Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 29, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Ensign, James Keane
Director: Gary Ross
» See full cast & crew
Seabiscuit Blu-ray Review
This inspiring tale dazzles on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 29, 2009
You don't throw a whole life away just because he's banged up a little.
Rags-to-riches. A Cinderella story. The tale of an underdog. No matter the moniker, Seabiscuit defines the very essence of the age-old tale of triumph over the odds, of proving the world wrong, and by doing so, giving to it a hero. Perhaps the perfect horse at the perfect time, the undersized Seabiscuit gave hope to little guys everywhere, his entire life story inspiring to show that no matter what life may have in store, the power of the spirit to overcome can conquer all. Seabiscuit tells the great American tale, the dream embodied not in a man but in a four-legged beast that gave purpose to those closest to him and hope to his fans. Admired not for his stature or even his speed but rather for his heart, his never-say-die attitude, for his ability to overcome all obstacles, the horse became a champion for opportunity, for hopes, and for dreams at a time when every depressed and downtrodden American needed him the most.
I wouldn't spend more than $5 on the best horse in America.
Successful businessman Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges, Iron Man) seems to have found his place in the world. He's running a thriving automobile business and enjoys the company of his wife and young son. When his son tragically dies, his wife leaves him, and the United States falls into the great depression, Howard's life is in a shambles. His fortunes change when he meets Tom Smith (Chris Cooper, The Kingdom), an outcast horse whisperer who chooses to help Howard select and train a race horse, the undersized and overly aggressive colt named Seabiscuit. Smith identifies a young, hotheaded, 115 pound "giant" of a jockey, Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire, the Spider-Man trilogy), to ride the animal. The long-shot horse takes the world by storm, winning race after race, though against a field of animals that seem like lightweights compared to War Admiral, a Triple Crown winner from the east admired for both his incredible speed and massive size. Howard, determined to prove Seabiscuit the best in the business, pesters War Admiral's owner for a contest and finally earns a head-to-head race in the 1938 Pimlico Special that will either cement War Admiral's legend or propel Seabiscuit into the record books and as the hero of a depressed and downtrodden America.
Sometimes when the little guy, he doesn't know he's the little guy, he can do great big things.
Seabiscuit is a film not about horse racing but rather about new beginnings, about finding a place in the world, about beating not just the odds but also overcoming deeply-rooted pain and suffering of the monetary and, much more importantly, the physical and emotional varieties. The real life story proves, and by extension the film sets out to show, that wealth, background, or physical stature matter not in the quest for material gain, emotional balance, or spiritual growth. The film reflects the importance of positive universal traits like hard work, dedication to a purpose, and compassion, traits that, when embraced and practiced, may take anyone -- or anything -- to the top and, much more importantly, allow for the return to greatness even after a long, hard fall. In the end, and particularly after a rocky, seemingly unbeatable fall from grace, Seabiscuit shows that it's not about winning by a nose or losing by 20 lengths. What matters is getting back in the race not for a prize, or even for praise, but instead for the good of the soul, for the honor of the effort, to show the true purpose of inner-strength and dedication to a goal that remains within grasp no matter the setback.
He just needs to learn how to be a horse again.
Technically, Seabiscuit inspires almost as much as its title character. Nominated for seven Academy Awards -- Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing -- the film stands toe-to-toe with the best of the decade in terms of sheer strength of behind-the-camera proficiency, the film a model of how to tell a story not only thematically but also visually. Narration and period photographs lend to the film a documentary feel that frames the story in context, giving it added weight by accentuating the hardships of depression-era America. In addition, the film's period locales and nuances, highlighted by a series of classically-staged radio broadcasts performed by the great William H. Macy (Fargo) as "Tick Tock" McGlaughlin, complete the experience and positively immerse the viewer in the time and place in which the story occurs. Rounded out by strong performances from Jeff Bridges, Tobey Maguire, and Gary Stevens as fellow jockey George Woolf, Seabiscuit delights both emotionally and aesthetically.
Seabiscuit Blu-ray, Video Quality
Seabiscuit's gorgeous cinematography and lavish production values come to life on this splendid 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer from Universal. Oozing colors, the film features a complete color palette that displays each hue with a richness and realism that is matched by precious few other releases. Whether the lavish greens of the wide-open spaces seen throughout the film, the brown dirt of the racetrack, the blue skies, or the red and white uniform worn by both Seabiscuit and his jockey, the transfer revels in breathtaking color. Detail is superb, too; close-up shots of horses reveal each fine hair, and everyday objects -- a tattered wooden fence or the doodads scattered about Tick Tock McGlaughlin's braodcast booth -- shine. Blacks are inky and true, and flesh tones appear stable and natural. The image appears crystal-clear and incredibly sharp in most every scene. Minimal grain is visible at normal viewing distances, but the transfer nevertheless takes on an impressive, film-like quality. Seabiscuit makes for another fabulous transfer from Universal.
Seabiscuit Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Seabiscuit races onto Blu-ray with a powerful DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Most impressive are the many sequences featuring running horses. Whether on the empty green plains or around the dirt racetracks, the power of the animals never fails to impress, the rumbling of the hooves delivering plenty of heart-pounding lows throughout the soundstage. Music, too, impresses with definition and crystal-clear presentation, and whether low-key tones or swelling, dramatic notes, the soundtrack brings the score to life and lends to it a realistic, pleasing air. Ambient effects shine, too, whether in quiet outdoor country shots or inside the bustling, loud racetrack where fans scream and cheer in every direction, the soundstage often places listeners in the midst of the action. Completed by strong dialogue reproduction, Seabiscuit's lossless soundtrack shines in every scene.
Seabiscuit Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Seabiscuit trots onto Blu-ray with a stable full of extras. Headlining the set is a feature-length commentary track with Director Gary Ross and Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh. Heavy on the themes of the film, their discussion hints on importance of setting up the time period, creating an emotional undertone, and the changing times reflected in the technological advancements of the period, but also speaking on filmmaking techniques and the personalities of the actors. Bringing the Legend to Life: The Making of 'Seabiscuit' (480p, 15:06) is a rather standard piece that intercuts footage from the film, behind-the-scenes clips, and interviews with cast and crew as they discuss the horses used in the film, the sets, shooting the racing sequences, the themes of the film, and more. Anatomy of a Movie Moment (480p, 4:45) looks at how Director Gary Ross assembled the film, paying special attention to an early, tragic scene from the film. 'Seabiscuit:' Racing Through History (480p, 14:53) looks at the place of horse racing throughout American history, the danger of the sport, the bond between man and animal, and more.
Next up is Photo Finish: Jeff Bridges' On-the-Set Photographs (480p, 5:21), a collection of the actors photos set to music and behind-the-scenes banter. The Longshot (480p, 3:17) takes a brief look at the history of the Buick through a mock vintage news piece. Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral" The 1938 Match Race (480p, 2:12) allows viewers to watch the actual race from 1938. Winner's Circle: The Heroes Behind the Legend (480p, 20:15) looks at how each of the primary actors -- Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Gary Stevens, Elizabeth Banks, Kingston DuCooeur, William H. Macy, and the film's narrator, David McClullough (who, in a manner of speaking, plays the "everyman" to whom Seabiscuit meant the most) -- played the parts and reflect the people they portrayed in the film. HBO First Look (480p, 13:02) is another standard making-of piece that features clips form the film and interviews with the cast and crew. The True Story of Seabiscuit (480p, 45:12) is an A&E-produced feature that looks at the horse's famed history. Concluding the bonus materials is BD-Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) functionality.
Seabiscuit Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Both an uplifting tale of drive, purpose, and character and a technically superior film, Seabiscuit makes for one of the better feel-good movies of the decade. Wonderfully shot, lavishly designed, well acted, and thematically sound, the picture encapsulates fine moviemaking and holds up remarkably well to repeat viewings. Universal's Blu-ray release dazzles. Featuring reference-quality video, a superior lossless soundtrack, and a wealth of bonus features, Blu-ray aficionados should not pull back on the reigns but instead pony up the dough to add this one to the stable. Highly recommended.
Seabiscuit: Other Editions
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