Hotel Rwanda appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite many positive elements, a number of concerns marred this transfer.
Edge enhancement created the most significant problems. Many instances of haloes could be observed, and those led to a less defined image than Iíd like. Most of the movie displayed solid resolution and clarity, but because of the haloes, wide shots often took on an indistinct tone. No jagged edges occurred, but I saw a little shimmering, and a smattering of print flaws also could be seen. Though I only noticed a speck or bit of grit here or there, these seemed a little too prominent for a brand-new movie.
Colors functioned as the strongest element of the visuals. The movie used a lot of bright and dynamic hues that matched the African setting, and the transfer replicated those with vivacity. I was a little surprised the movie didnít go for a stylized palette ala something like Black Hawk Down, but I was glad it didnít, as the more believable colors made things realistic. While blacks looked deep and dense, low-light shots tended to seem a bit murky. Shadows were somewhat thick most of the time, and they didnít offer great delineation. Too much of Rwanda offered very strong visuals for me to give it a grade below ďB-ď, but the flaws and inconsistencies nearly knocked this one down to ďCĒ level.
Although I discerned no serious flaws with the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Hotel Rwanda, it also failed to merit a grade above a ďB-ď. Part of that stemmed from the mixís general lack of involvement. Some of the violent sequences added dimensionality, but much of the time it seemed like a pretty restricted track, with little to create a feeling of atmosphere.
Actually, that didnít bother me much, as I didnít expect a slam-bang mix. My larger complaints related to the awkwardness of the mix. The elements tended to be speaker-specific and they failed to blend cleanly. This mostly affected effects, as the score showed decent stereo delineation. However, the various effects usually popped up in one particular channel and didnít mesh well with the rest of the mix. This wasnít a terrible tendency, but it could cause distractions that occasionally took me out of the movie.
At least audio quality was fine. Speech was consistently natural and distinctive, and I noticed no edginess or other concerns. Music demonstrated good range and clarity, as the score was bright and acceptably bold. Effects also came across well. They seemed clean and accurate, and they kicked in decent low-end material when necessary. Ultimately, the soundtrack was good enough to earn a ďB-ď, though the clunkiness of the soundfield almost put it into ďCĒ territory as well.
The DVD of Hotel Rwanda comes with a mix of supplements. First we find an audio commentary that mostly features director Terry George and the real-life Paul Rusesabagina, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. Composer Wyclef Jean pops up briefly during the end credits. Along with George, he discusses the writing and recording of his song that plays at that time.
If you want to learn much about the making of Rwanda, youíll not get that here. At the trackís start, George tells us that he prefers to allow Rusesabagina to do most of the talking and he wants to focus on the facts. George does chime in about locations, liberties taken such as composite characters, and his decision not to feature graphic violence in the movie.
Rusesabagina fills us in with the facts behind the filmís tale. He offers quite a lot of good details that broaden our understanding about the actions depicted. We learn many good notes about elements not depicted and how close the movie gets things. This nicely fleshes out matters and proves very informative, educational and enlightening. Itís a really fascinating piece.
Unfortunately, the selected scenes commentary by actor Don Cheadle proves much less interesting. Cheadle offers screen-specific remarks that cover about 21 minutes and 47 seconds as jump around from scene to scene. Cheadle tells us a little about the production and his approach to the character, but donít expect to learn much. Even with the abbreviated period covered by the track, thereís still a lot of dead air, and Cheadleís notes tend to be bland and uninformative. Skip this nearly useless discussion.
Next comes a 27-minute and 54-second documentary called A Message for Peace: Making Hotel Rwanda. This uses the standard complement of movie clips, archival material, and interviews. We hear from Rusesabagina, George, Cheadle, writer Keir Pearson,
They discuss the storyís path to the screen and the development of the script, storytelling decisions and related issues, some of the facts behind the tale and thoughts about why the west didnít assist, modern visits to Rwanda, casting and Cheadleís approach to the role, more particulars of Rusesabaginaís activities, and what the folks involved hoped would result from the flick.
Since it largely emphasizes Rusesabaginaís story, ďPeaceĒ duplicates some of the information already heard in the commentary. However, it opens up matters well. The title is deceptive, as thereís really not a lot about the making of the film, but we do get some good notes in that realm. Cheadle offers a lot more insight into his performance here than in his commentary. Despite some repetition and too many movie clips, this acts as a fairly informative piece.
After this we locate a featurette entitled Return to Rwanda. In this 14-minute and 30-second piece, Rusesabagina heads back to his native country and revisits some of the spots featured in the film. He also narrates the program to discuss the locations and his activities. Some harrowing shots appear such as those that depict the corpses of those mauled back in the attacks. Rusesabagina gets into a surprising amount of new material and presents an involving and moving look at his past.
In addition to the trailer for Rwanda, ďOther Great MGM ReleasesĒ presents clips for Osama, , Manic, Bowling for Columbine and The Yes Men. The DVD starts with a trailer for Undertow and also presents a PSA with Don Cheadle to promote Amnesty International. Itís a good cause, but I dislike the fact you canít skip the promo by any method; forcing me to watch the PSA every time I put in the DVD wonít make me give money.
Despite some clumsy story telling and a few other awkward moments, the natural intensity of Hotel Rwanda allows the movie to succeed. With another excellent performance from Don Cheadle and a tale that packs a punch, the movie creates an involving world with emotional heft. As for the DVD, picture and sound seem fairly average, and it adds some good supplements highlighted by strong audio commentary. Rwanda doesnít stand out as a DVD, but the movie and the whole package work well enough to merit my recommendation.