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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Hidden Agenda
Hidden Agenda
MGM // R // April 16, 2002
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted April 23, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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BR> The Movie:

A very involving 1990 drama/thriller from highly regarded director Ken Loach, "Hidden Agenda" is a fictional story based upon real events. Similarly to director Michael Apted's recent WWII drama "Enigma", Loach is able to bring a sense of urgency and intensity to "Hidden Agenda" without having to provide rapid editing, flashy camera moves or action. It's an interesting and involving story, well-acted and well-crafted.

The film opens with two American aid workers, Ingrid Jessner and Paul Sullivan (Brad Dourif and "Fargo"'s Frances McDormand) coming to Ireland to investigate human rights violations by British officers in the country. When Paul is killed in a car after recieving an important tape, the officers make it appear as if they were defending themselves.

A British police officer (Brian Cox) is brought in to investigate the situation and, with the aid of Ingrid, finds himself uncovering a conspiracy that leads all the way up to higher powers. Loach was a former documentary filmmaker and his documentary-style, realistic approach to this film's visuals, along with the intense performances and story, make the film even more involving. Cox is subtle, but very effective as the police officer, while McDormand is intense and emotional. Both have strong and complex characters to work with and succeed quite well. Technically, the film also benefits from Clive Tickner's cinematography and Stewart Copeland's low-key but involving score. Given the fact that I was not very familiar with the conflict in Ireland, I found this film's look at the situation compelling.

The film also won the Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 1990.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Hidden Agenda" is presented by MGM/UA in both 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and pan & scan. While this isn't a stunner of a presentation by any means, it's actually not too bad and, like a fair amount of MGM's recent efforts, a bit better than usual for their catalog releases. Sharpness and detail are not terrific, but the film's slightly soft appearance seems intentional and strikes a rather smooth, pleasant balance between sharp and soft.

The film's very fine, occasionally visible grain also appears intentional and actually works for the look of the picture. Not working for the viewing enjoyment are several small specks and some minor edge enhancement. No pixelation or other flaws were spotted.

The film's color palette is generally subdued, but bright colors occasionally appear, such as the red coats of the marching bands during the opening scenes. Whether vivid or not, colors seemed accurate and natural, with no smearing. One of MGM's nicer looking catalog efforts.

SOUND: The 2.0 soundtrack actually isn't half bad. While mostly a dialogue-driven effort, the score and some sound effects actually have a fair amount of power behind them. Dialogue and music remained clear and natural sounding.

MENUS: As with all MGM catalog titles, the menus are very basic and non-animated, presenting the disc's options in a simple manner.

EXTRAS: The trailer - that's it.

Final Thoughts: "Hidden Agenda" is an intelligent political thriller with excellent performances. MGM's DVD provides good audio/video, but no supplements of note. Still, the film is recommended.
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