Touchstone brings viewers 25th Hour in an anamorphically enhanced – and THX certified - widescreen presentation in the film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. With some impressively gritty and arresting cinematography from Spike Lee and Rodrigo Prieto, 25th Hour is a striking visual experience.
The film was quite detailed and sharp for the vast majority of the running time, with only some slight grain noted on occasion that broke the picture up somewhat. Much of the grain was intentional and was meant to be carried over to Touchstone’s DVD and I tried to score the transfer based on a balance between what was intended and what was more than likely not meant to be there. The film contained a very subdued and dreary color palette to go along with the subject matter and it really enhanced the viewing of the film. The scenes during the nightclub contained the most impressive and colorful hues seen in 25th Hour and the transfer handled them all marvelously. There was never any bleeding or smearing noted and as far as I could tell, everything was properly balanced and saturated when you consider that certain portions of 25th Hour were supposed to be slightly off-kilter. Black levels were spot on and allowed for above-average shadow detail and delineation.
Problems with the transfer were minimal, as the aforementioned grain was probably the most notable element throughout. Print flaws in the form of flakes and flecks rarely made an appearance, while I did note some shimmer on some of the more highly contrasted backgrounds. There was some very slight compression artifacting in a couple of the darkest scenes, but it was of the “blink and you’ll miss it” variety and ultimately, not distracting in the least. Black levels seemed to be washed out and excessively gritty from time to time, but it seemed to be intentional much more often than not. Slight edge enhancement was noted a few times throughout the presentation, but like the other aforementioned flaws, it didn’t distract from the film itself. Ultimately, this was a fine looking film that came from a well-manicured master print.
While 25th Hour does contain a few flaws, many of them were difficult to discern because of the intentional grain and restrained look-and-feel of the picture itself. Even so, 25th Hour remained a very tight and fine-looking presentation.
25th Hour gets a pretty impressive THX-certified Dolby Digital 5.1 mix from Touchstone that presents the material from the dialogue-heavy film quite nicely.
The film never uses sound belligerently, although there are a few occasions where your surrounds really light up the room. During some of the outdoor - and busier indoor scenes (for instance, the floor at Slaughtery’s Wall Street workplace) - the soundstage opened up somewhat and allowed for some environmental effects to play around and create a nice, general sense of involvement, as well as some occasions where Terence Blanchard’s score got some general reinforcement from the rear. During one scene in particular - when Monty is having his verbal outburst against certain minorities in a bathroom mirror - each and every speaker in your surround setup gets a discrete piece of the action and it allows for the moment to become much more impressive and engaging than had it simply been relegated to the forward spectrum. The low-end, as well as your rear surrounds, are definitely booming during the club scene and while those few minutes were the exception and not the rule … they were enough to take the track over the top.
As I said earlier, the majority of the film is dialogue-driven and the vast majority of it comes from the front surrounds. Speech was always crystal clear and easily understood, without any harshness or edginess to distort the proceedings. The LFE gets some play, but it’s rather restrained overall (save for the club scene), as it only served to reinforce a few effects, as well as some of the more active moments in Blanchard’s very effective score.
Touchstone has also included a French 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, as well as English Closed Captions.
Touchstone has done a commendable job with supplements for the film, but 25th Hour is a far cry from “Special Edition” material. Even so, there are a couple of really nice extras included here, so let’s take a look …
Starting things off, Touchstone has added two Feature Length Commentaries on the disc, with the first featuring director Spike Lee. Lee is able to hold his own here and he provides viewers with a fairly thorough dissection of the film and what it was like making it. There are a few moments of dead air scattered throughout the track, but Lee still manages to make what he says very interesting and engaging. Knowing Lee’s public personality, I expected him to be a bit more chatty than he was here and his commentary was surprisingly reserved and modest. Lee covers various and sundry issues dealing with the shoot – a standard director’s commentary you might say – and he expounds on the story, as well as the actors in it. A good commentary for sure, but I honestly expected a bit more from Lee.
The Commentary featuring author/screenwriter David Benioff was pretty informative and covered a good bit of ground on what it was like adapting his novel into a screenplay and all of the pressures condensing his novel involved. Also, since his novel was written before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he covers the changes that were made to the screenplay in order to use 9/11 … and more specifically, post-9/11 in New York City … as a backdrop for the story. Benioff does cover some movie production issues as well, but not quite as in-depth as Lee did in his commentary. Benioff does a good job solo here, but with the amount of dead time between the two tracks, it seems that maybe the duo should have gotten together, played off of each other’s comments, and made one, singular track that would have probably been more active having the two in the same room.
The Evolution of an American Filmmaker (22:19) is a nice documentary that gives us a quick overview of Lee and his storied film career. I won’t turn this into a discussion of what I think about Lee or his politics, as I really enjoyed 25th Hour and see it as one of his finest achievements. While this extra touches slightly on 25th Hour, it also encompasses much of Lee’s other work via clips from the films themselves, interview snippets with contemporaries and stars who have worked with Lee on other projects, as well as shots from behind-the-scenes. While the piece is short and Lee’s career is definitely worthy of deeper and more in-depth coverage, Evolution does a good job of scratching the surface on the director, his films, and his storied career in Hollywood.
There are six Deleted Scenes included from the film (“Sway” - 1:34 ; “Little Odessa” – 3:08 ; “Naturelle, Mom, and Monty” – 2:43; “Party Plans” – 0:55; “Sneaking Mary In” – 0:50; and “Mary’s Death Scene” – 1:02) and while they were all somewhat interesting in their own right, none would have really added much to 25th Hour as it stands right now. While these scenes are interesting to have as part of the supplements package, they are definitely worthy of their spot on the cutting room floor. Touchstone has added a –PLAY ALL- selection to this supplement as well, so we can view the scenes back to back to back if need be.
Ground Zero (5:31) is next and contains some raw footage the Lee and company shot while making the film. The majority of the 9/11 clean up was complete when the footage was shot, but it still remains as a sad reminder of the terrorist attacks of 2001 on American soil.
Lastly, you can Register Your DVD via the ROM capabilities of the disc over the Internet in order to qualify for disc replacement and “DVD technical support” from Touchstone. Never done it, so I don’t know what to tell you to expect if you ever actually had to call them about anything.
While there’s not a lot here outside of the two commentaries (which, don’t get me wrong, are very nice), 25th Hour is one of those films that stands alone and it would be worth purchasing if there were no supplements included.
25th Hour is quite simply a spectacular film and one that comes highly recommended. While the DVD is lacking much substantive material outside of its commentaries, the film itself is worth the price of admission alone.