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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Outbreak
Outbreak
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted June 26, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Director Wolfgang Petersen("The Perfect Storm", "Das Boot") brings a talented cast to a sometimes stunning, sometimes mediocre thriller starring Dustin Hoffman. One of two virus projects in competition, "Outbreak" was able to be the first and only film that made it to theaters.

The film may be a "big", somewhat slick thriller, but the plot is serious enough to be effective in showing a terrifying subject; a lethal virus that can kill within days. The film opens with a village being destroyed completely due to the fact that the virus had taken over - the army decides that there is no other way to contain it.

Years later, we meet Hoffman's character Sam, a scientist who works for the Army. He's breaking up with his former girlfriend(Rene Russo) and although the relationship scenes between the two of them are effective, they are thankfully not the focus of the film. The movie shows us a very scary sequence as the monkey carrying the film's deadly virus arrives in the US, then the effects as the virus spreads from host to host. It's up to Sam and his team(played by Cuba Gooding, Jr and Kevin Spacey) to track down the virus and kill it.

Of course, the film then offers up the usual conspiracy as the Army has other plans for the virus and wants Sam off the case. This opposing side is lead by Hoffman's boss(Morgan Freeman) and the even higher-up Donald Sutherland. Hoffman's character wants to hear nothing of it and is off to check things out on his own. His time is running out though, as the town that the virus is spotted in could become a repeat of what happened to the village earlier.

The performances are good; Hoffman is intense and effective as the scientist who wants answers. Rene Russo doesn't have much to do as his wife, and both Cuba Gooding Jr. and Kevin Spacey provide good support. A few things take the film down a notch, but overall, "Outbreak" provides a pretty thrilling mix of suspense, drama and action.


The DVD

VIDEO: This is a very pleasing transfer from Warner Brothers, all the more impresive that it was one of their earliest efforts. Images are sharp and offer strong clarity and detail. Colors are rich and bold, looking well-saturated and never showing any problems of note. Flesh tones are consistently good and black level is solid as well.

There are a few isolated instances of slight marks on the print used, but these did not turn into a distraction. Otherwise, there are no major flaws with this image - no shimmering, no pixelation. A slight bit of grain is occasionally visible, but it's slight. A very nice presentation for the excellent camera work by ace cinematographer Michael Ballhaus("Wild Wild West", "Goodfellas") and a very nice transfer from Warner Brothers. A pan&scan transfer is available on the flip-side.

SOUND: From the earliest sequences, "Outbreak" shows the kind of film that it's going to be in terms of audio; there are some scenes in the film where the movie is simply dialogue, but there are some great action scenes where the audio opens up wide. There are some very nice surround effects during these scenes as well, and with the occasional solid bass, this soundtrack manages to be very effective in bringing the viewer into the film. There's definitely a lot of helicopters flying around in the film, too - which makes for some fine audio moments. The score by James Newton Howard is solid as well, enveloping the viewer nicely and adding snap and energy to the proceedings. Dialogue is natural and clear, as well. Not always an agressive film in terms of audio, it does still provide some very intense sounding moments.

MENUS:: As with many of the early titles from the studio, the menu is pretty minimal, with basic film images and options.

EXTRAS: As one of the very first titles from Warner Brothers, the only extras are cast&crew bios and production notes. No trailer.

Final Thoughts: "Outbreak" is recommended; although this is a very early Warner Brothers title(one of the first) that doesn't contain much in the way of features, the audio/video quality is good and the movie is a very entertaining thriller.

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