"Time Travel Thriller" would be a decidedly small film genre if it even existed, but Frequency (2000) would undoubtedly be part of the club. Directed by Gregory Hoblit (Primal Fear) and written by Toby Emmerich (The Last Mimzy), Frequency employs an interesting formula that constantly shifts in layers to keep us guessing..but on several occasions, that's not necessarily a good thing. Our main players are John Sullivan (Jim Cavaziel, The Passion of the Christ) and his father Frank (Dennis Quaid, The Right Stuff). Respectively, they're a cop and a firefighter...but Frank died on the job in 1969, when John was just a young boy. As Frequency shifts between 1969 and 1999 (when both men are approximately in their late 30s), the two Sullivans connect via ham radio during a rare occurrence of the Aurora Borealis.
The simple miracle of their "reunion" would almost be enough to carry Frequency if it aimed to be more of a character-driven drama, but the story quickly shifts gears to a mystery/thriller. Soon enough, John spills the beans about Frank's unfortunate demise (which, naturally, is just around the corner) and as expected, the bullet is dodged. Unfortunately, the new timeline is also grim: Frank would eventually die differently years later and, worse yet, John's mother (Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost) would be murdered somewhere along the way. As our perspective continues to shift between 1969 and 1999 during their brief window of communication, John helps Frank investigate these future events using the evidence in his possession. Twists and turns continue to pile up along the way, with the ultimate goal being a potential reunion of father and son. So, in summary, Frequency is a drama-thriller-mystery-family film with elements of sci-fi and action, just for good measure. Ambitious, convoluted, or both?
Both, but Frequency is still pretty entertaining and enjoyable despite the drawbacks. The film's constant use of time travel elements isn't a one-way gimmick: true, the way the past affects the future is convenient, but it often plays out more like parallel reality than anything else. A number of plot holes can also be spotted along the way; for example, John's exact knowledge of how and where his father originally died. The film's final act also contains at least one plot twist too many, which firmly places Frequency in that post-Sixth Sense period where just about every film tried to sucker-punch unsuspecting audiences. In hindsight, Hoblit's film doesn't quite achieve its lofty goal to be a brainy, epic adventure, but there's more than enough here to make it an enjoyable ride every so often.
Frequency makes its Blu-Ray debut more than a decade after the initial DVD release, which was definitely a well-rounded and satisfying effort for its time. This low-priced upgrade firmly ups the ante with an improved A/V presentation, while the near-identical slate of bonus features is either good or bad, depending on your outlook. Either way, this flawed but fascinating production still has the ability to please audiences young and old, and this Blu-Ray's a pretty solid value for the asking price.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
In all fairness, New Line's 2000 "Platinum Series" DVD offered a fantastic visual presentation...but 12 years is plenty of time for improvement, and Frequency has benefited from it. Presented in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer is crisp, natural and pleasing from start to finish. A fine natural layer of film grain is intact, the film's color palette is consistently strong and textures are uniformly well-defined. As always, daytime and outdoor scenes offer the most dramatic improvements, but I can't see any viewers finding much to complain about. Overall, it's a natural upgrade that fans will appreciate.
NOTE: This review's screen caps were taken from the 2000 DVD edition and do not represent Blu-Ray's native resolution.
From start to finish, the audio treatment is equally satisfying...if not slightly more so. Frequency gets a nice bump up to DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio and has plenty of opportunities to show off along the way. Rear channel effects are effective without feeling gimmicky, LFE is aggressive at times and no elements feel like they're fighting for attention, from crisp dialogue to the late Michael Kamen's excellent score. Optional English (SDH) and Spanish subtitles are present during the main feature and several extras.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Menu designs are fairly plain-wrap and uninspired, but at least they're simple and easy to navigate. The 118-minute main feature has been divided into 22 chapters, no obvious layer change was detected and this Blu-ray disc appears to be locked for Region "A" playback only. This one-disc release includes no inserts and is packaged inside a flimsy eco-friendly keepcase. The lazily recycled "floating head" cover artwork is pretty disappointing...but at least we can ditch the old snapper case, right?
Nothing new here, but just about everything from the Platinum Series release has been ported over (sorry, DVD-ROM content). These recycled extras include a pair of Audio Commentaries
(one with director Gregory Hoblit, and another with writer/producer Toby Emmerich and actor Noah Emmerich), a multi-part featurette entitled "The Science and Technology Behind Frequency"
(above left), four VFX Demos
(above right), an Isolated Score Track
with selected commentary by Michael Kamen, a short collection of Deleted & Extended Scenes
and the original Theatrical Trailer
. Many of these extras show their age visually, but there's plenty of good information tucked away here. All extras are presented in standard definition and include optional subtitles, save for the audio commentaries and trailer.
Frequency is an interesting (and often overlooked) little film that shows its seams on occasion, but those with even a casual interest in time-travelling adventures should definitely enjoy themselves. Featuring plenty of solid performances, great visual effects and an excellent score by the late Michael Kamen, it's a fine middle-ground choice for family movie night. New Line's Blu-Ray offers a pleasing A/V upgrade, while basically none of the vintage DVD bonus features have been left behind. It's worth the upgrade to fans who already own the DVD, but those new to Frequency might as well start here. Recommended.
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.