WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
At first, A Perfect World seems to be taking the path of most prison-break crime thrillers. You might expect a Fugitive-style caper flick after viewing the first half-hour. What comes later, however, transforms A Perfect World from something typical into something almost transcendent.
The story begins on Halloween, 1963, with an immediate focus on two parallel plot developments. First, in a small section of suburbia, 8-year-old Phillip Perry (T. J. Lowther) is being forbidden to participate in the neighborhood's trick-or-treating, thanks to his mother, a devout Jehovah's Witness. Second, Butch Haynes (Kevin Costner) and a repugnant counterpart have just busted out of prison and have found their way to the very same neighborhood. Soon, Phillip's and Butch's fates will be intertwined, even as police chief Red Garnett (Clint Eastwood) and the Texas Rangers follow in hot pursuit. The man and the boy are on the road together, fleeing the law.
After they get rid of Butch's fellow prison-breaker, it becomes clear that a powerful father-son connection is building between Butch and Phillip. We learn about Phillip's extremely sheltered young life, and we feel the inevitable bond that develops between them, each in his own way desperate for the connection. The real story of A Perfect World isn't the prison break or the police chase that structures the film. It's not about action set pieces or shootouts. It's about the link between a father figure and a boy. After the two of them get in that car together, each will be forever altered by the experience. This is perhaps the most powerful Costner performance I've seen—subtle and believable.
Eastwood is more than capable behind the camera and in front of the camera. You might think, from what I've written above, that his presence is superfluous, but it's far from it. Eastwood's craggy visage and authority serve to lift the film to a level that would be unachievable had the story focused only on Costner and the boy. Eastwood the actor gives the film a structural suspense, and Eastwood the director provides the emotional center. It's a bravura double role.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Warner presents A Perfect World in a solid anamorphic-widescreen transfer of the film's original 2.35:1 theatrical presentation. Clarity is above average, with detail reaching into backgrounds. Blacks seem accurate if not terribly deep. I noticed no haloes or artifacting. The print is remarkably clean.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The disc includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that is nicely enveloping. Surround use is impressive, especially toward the film's end. Dialog is clear and accurate, avoiding distortion at the high end. The score is full and punchy.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
All you get is the Theatrical Trailer. Booooo!
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
The disc offers a solid image and sound quality but stumbles badly in the extras arena. Still, A Perfect World is very much worth your time.