It's essentially an extended trailer for the fringe sport of freediving, but Martin Khodabakhshian's Breathe (2011) should have no problem hooking new viewers. The Emmy-winning ESPN producer is no stranger to sports-related documentaries, so freediving's deadly appeal makes Breathe a perfect pairing for everyone except aquaphobics. The sport's current leading man is William Trubridge, who seems to have a Zen-like connection to the water, a purist's mind and a rigid commitment to staying on top...or more fittingly, on the bottom. Breathe chronicles William's 2010 attempt to set a world record freedive; what's more, he also does so without fins or a scuba suit. Luckily, he can hold his breath for more than six minutes.
The setting is Dean's Blue Hole in the Bahamas, a massive underwater cavern with a depth of more than 600 feet. William's attempting to reach just under half that depth...but hey, he's only using one breath, so cut him some slack. Dean's Blue Hole is largely described in hushed tones by several reluctant locals, which sets the stage nicely for William's eventual descent. Even with a short running time of 51 minutes, though, Breathe has trouble maintaining the mystery and danger it sensationally promises. Though we do learn what goes on inside the mind of a man crazy enough to dive unaided into the darkness, the actual record attempt itself feels more like an epilogue than a climax. Still, Breathe earns points for its artistic style, interesting subject matter and eye-popping landscapes, even with limited replay value in mind.
The DVD package from FilmWorks Entertainment serves up this half-length documentary with only a bare minimum of bonus features, though at least an excellent technical presentation preserves the film nicely. Curious newcomers and extreme sports fans will undoubtedly be satisfied with a rental, as documentaries of this particular type usually don't hold up to countless viewings. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in what appears to be anamorphic 2:1 widescreen, Breathe looks great with mild reservations. It's obvious that the sunny Bahaman landscapes offer plenty of visual highlights, including strong image detail and a stunningly vivid color palette. Underwater footage---especially at or near the 300 foot mark---tends to vary in quality for obvious reasons, though none of these problems seem inherent to the DVD transfer. Overall, the only minor issues I detected were minor amounts of mosquito noise, a bit of black crush and occasional compression artifacts, but nothing major. Overall, the visuals are Breathe's biggest selling point and, for the most part, this DVD hits all the right marks. But why no Blu-Ray option?
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and, not surprisingly, is mostly confined to the front channels. This dialogue-driven documentary occasionally offers brief moments of background ambiance (above and below the water) and sporadic music cues that venture into the rear channels; ultimately, these audio elements come through with no discernible problems. Unfortunately, no optional subtitles are provided.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the animated menu designs are simple and easy to navigate with minimal loading time. This 51-minute film has been divided into half a dozen chapters; the single-layer DVD is housed in a standard keepcase and includes no inserts of any kind. Attractive, minimalist cover artwork sells the film nicely.
Not much, just the film's Trailer
and a handful of Wallpaper Images
for your computer. Considering the main feature's short running time, it's a real shame that more effort wasn't made in this department.
I'd imagine that Breathe should largely appeal to outsiders like myself...while somewhat ironically, those with a closer eye on the sport of freediving might not be as impressed. This is largely due to the film's overtly sensational tone (not a complaint, mind you), as well as a "spectator's guide" overview of the sport and its current leading man, William Trubridge. This DVD package from FilmWorks Entertainment is impressive from a technical standpoint, though the main feature's short running time, limited replay value and lack of extras will undoubtedly scare away value-conscious buyers. Rent It before diving in.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.