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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Frequency
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Review by Jeremy Kleinman | posted October 29, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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The Movie

"Frequency" tells the story of John, a New York Cop who, after firing up his departed father's ham radio soon finds himself talking in 1999 to his father Frank, circa 1969 on the ham radio. After overcoming mutual skepticism, John seeks to get Frank to work with him to alter the events of the past. The alternate ending is amusing because part of it seems to be right out of the "Matrix" of all things. Nevertheless, the alternate ending proposed by the Director would have quite improved. The film is both a father-son story, in the vein of "Field of Dreams" and a legitimate murder mystery, and surprisingly, it works on both levels. Largely the result of a well-written and interesting script, this is an entertaining, enjoyable film with an intriguing plot-line and a good amount of unconventional plot twists.

While Dennis Quaid's Queens accent in the film seems to be laid on a bit too thick, Quaid and Caviezel have a genuine chemistry that plays well during the many scenes in which the two sit on opposite sides of a ham radio. While there is one scene in particular, a composite scene, which seems to summarize a number of conversations the two have in a way that seems a bit cheap and disingenuous, (while a similar scene worked well in "Austin Powers" as Austin watches in disbelief, a tape of the major historical events of the years he missed, here, some rather important conversations are unduly condensed to a point that they lose any potency). Nevertheless, many of the other scenes between Frank and the adult John are quite enjoyable. Further, the film is bolstered by another fine performance by Andre Braugher, ("Glory") who plays Satch, a friend of both Frank and John's.

The film is made more interesting and enjoyable by a number strong emotional moments in the film which are a bit unconventional, especially for murder-mysteries. For those whose father is still in their life, this film might very well compel a phone call, while for those who have already lost their father, a number of scenes in the film might be a bit difficult to take. While the relationship between father and son is played so well in the film, the film does a good job of being about more than just this relationship.

Obviously, whenever a film alters the "space-time continuum" a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is absolutely required in order to become involved in the film's plot. This film is no exception. It requires a fairly large suspension of disbelief to accept the central premise of the film that father and son can speak to each other, thirty years apart. The film generally does a good job, however, in passing the "Back to the Future" test, namely the Hollywood maxim that actions changing the past will necessarily cause changes to the future, which can at times be quite substantial. With respect to this aspect of the plot, the film does a good job establishing a continuity that allows for the future to reflect the intended and somewhat drastic unintended results of such actions. In fact, the first scene in which Frank, the father, willingly makes a mark and it quickly shows up 30 years later comes off really well (although later special-effects laden scenes don't come off quite as well). The film does unravel a bit in its final climax, as acknowledged by the Director in his commentary track, but other than this, the film seems to make a rather unbelievable central plotline as believable as it could be.

The Picture

"Frequency is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen and looks fantastic throughout the film. The digital transfer is as good as viewers have come to expect from New Line, with tremendous clarity and an absolute lack of pixelation or imperfections in the film. The director's style involves a great number of close ups, but such close ups still look exceedingly good on this transfer.

The Sound

Like the digital picture transfer, the sound transfer on this DVD is quite impressive. This DVD is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, and it uses the surround sound capabilities fairly well, contributing to an impressive sound presentation. Bullets and explosions from some of the chase scenes and fire scenes seem to sail around the room, and in one climactic chase scene, a truck literally seems to come right out of the right front speaker into the TV. Also, the music often resonates through the surround sound speakers, as do the more subtle noises of the film. There is a lot of music in the film, both from songs placed in the film and from Michael Kamen's score, and the music, as well as the dialogue in the film sound impressive. In fact, listening to Kamen's isolated music and commentary track accentuates just how well the film's score sounds, thanks to a well-accomplished digital transfer.

. Bonus Materials

Like many of the other New Line Cinema Platinum Series DVD releases, "Frequency" is packed with extras. The DVD contains two feature-length commentary tracks, an isolated music score and commentary track by composer Michael Kamen, an optional "facts and trivia" feature which allows the viewer to select whether he or she wishes to have on-screen facts popping up during the film, deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer, cast and crew bios, an ad for an unrelated DVD-ROM game, "Complex Animation and Solar Gallaries" showing the step by step creation of the animation for the opening shots of the sun, and "The Science behind Frequency," a roughly thirty minute look at some of the scientific ideas present in the film, from the discussion of ham radios, to theoretical physics and time-travel to firefighting. Each segment contains interviews with experts in the field, as well as scenes from the film.

Commentary by Director Gregory Hoblit- Hoblit's feature length commentary track is often interesting and is filled with a nice discussion of his experiences before the film, while making the film, and the alternate ending for the film that Hoblit wanted to make after discovering inconsistencies in the film's ending. While Hoblit does his commentary track on its own, he keeps the discussion interesting and leaves few pauses during the nearly two hours of the film. Because this film is hard to peg within one particular category, it is especially interesting to hear the director's intentions for the film. Hoblit lets the viewer in on much of his thought process and even goes into a lengthy discussion about the N.Y.F.D. and the N.Y.P.D. and the general differences between those who participate in each profession. Hoblit speaks about the challenge of following the rules of the film genre, and goes into a lengthy discussion about the film's ending. Before the film's release, Hoblit realized that the film's ending does not completely correlate to the other occurrences in the film and took the time to draft a revised shooting script for an alternate ending. The ending included with the film, however, played extremely well in test screenings and, as a result, plans for the revised ending were scrapped. Interestingly, the ending proposed was quite similar to an ending scene in "The Matrix" but, that notwithstanding, the alternate ending seems better and more feasible than the one included in the film.

Commentary by Writer Toby Emmerich and Actor Noah Emmerich- While some of the information presented in this commentary track was previously discussed in Hoblit's commentary track, the interplay between the brothers Emmerich is fairly enjoyable. The two discuss at length the production and editing of the film, the actors' techniques in making the film. They two also discuss what they are wearing, where they are, and what they are doing. The two definitely have a good time doing the commentary track, and in fact, approximately thirty minutes into the commentary track, Toby ponders whether people actually listen to the writer's commentary track and asks that those who listen to the whole thing drop him an e-mail at: [email protected] to let him know. The two also make comments like, stating that a scene with a fireman cutting the steel was gratuitous but just put in because they liked the way it seemed to spit out sparks. While there are some pauses in the commentary, it appears that these are intended more to allow viewers to enjoy the film's dramatic effects, rather than a lack of material to discuss. All in all, while some of the material is mentioned elsewhere, the commentary is quite enjoyable and definitely makes it worth listening to a second commentary track.

Commentary/ Isolated Music Track by Michael Kamen- Enjoyably and impressively, the isolated music track is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital sound and, as stated above, the music track sounds fantastic. Kamen's resume is unrivaled by all but possibly John Williams, and has recently, collaborated with the likes of Guns N' Roses and Metallica, on their S & M album. While, in the course of the movie, the score is somewhat understated and merely adds to the general feel of the scene, the isolated music track truly showcases Kamen's great talents. He keeps his comments rather short and provides the listener great opportunities to just listen to the music. Kamen's comments are fairly interesting, both on the subject of the music and off of it.

Facts and Trivia- This optional feature spans the length of the film and, when activated, constantly lists all sorts of facts and trivia related to the film and the plethora of subjects touched on by the film. This trivia track actually begins with a short history of New Line Cinema, and goes on to provide information on everything from the identification of the opening music, to the place where the cast and crew grew up, scientific information about the sun, the causes for the rise in popularity of motorcycles and bicycles, the requirements to be a N.Y.F.D. firefighter, what the call sign for Ham radio users mean, an explanation of the television show MacGuyver, and a ton of other subjects. While all these facts are simply presented in white text at the bottom of the screen, it's almost too much information. Especially, if the viewer chooses to watch this feature while listening to the director's or writer's commentary track, it could very easily be too much information. Put quite simply, this feature seems, at times, to resemble VH-1's Pop Up Video on Speed. Knowing that this DVD was produced at least a month prior to its actual release, there is one rather humorous reference in this section. In reference to John's comment that he got tired of all the bullshit of baseball, the text explains about the strike in the mid-90's and the birth of interleague play, pointing out that it included a regular season game between the New York Yankees and the New York Mets, which "ordinarily would play only if both teams made it to the World Series." But how improbable would that be? The information in the fact and trivia track is incredibly thorough and on a incredible amount of subjects. While information overload is a definite possibility for anyone watching the film and/ or listening to a commentary track while watching with this feature on, it is a great addition to the DVD, and likely a sign of things to come on later DVD releases.

Deleted Scenes- The DVD contains four deleted scenes. The first scene, an alternate scene in which an adult John and a childhood Gordo talk. While in the original scene, John tells Gordo to remember "Yahoo," here, Gordo tells John that he can't tell him what to do. John then goes on the offensive and claims to be all-knowing, referring to all the nefarious deeds Gordo has committed. Then he tells him to save every penny and wait 27 years and buy Yahoo. The second scene features an extended cameo by writer Toby Emmerich as a cop in the precinct station. The third scene shows an alternate take of Frank tucking young John in by singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and then sharing a moment with his wife. Finally, the fourth scene depicts the police-house confrontation between Frank and Shep, where Shep threatens Frank's family. While the last three scenes were likely cut for length and their omission does not hurt the film, the first scene is quite funny and would have made a nice addition.

Final Thoughts

"Frequency" is a film that works on many levels. While, as stated above, the film requires a fair amount of suspension of disbelief, the script is a well-written one, and the interplay between Frank and John throughout the film works well. It is truly an enjoyable film, but will very likely make any viewer greatly miss or appreciate their father.

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