Backdraft: Ron Howard, director; Universal Home Video Inc; Widescreen
only (2.35:1); Dolby 5.1 English; 135 Minutes
Executive Decision: Stuart Baird, director; Warner Home Video; Widescreen
and Pan & Scan; Dolby Digital 5.1 English; 133 Minutes
I guess I’ve lumped these two films together because they both star Kurt Russell, who always looks as if he’s just swallowed a prune. Backdraft is set in Chicago and is about firemen and fires, with strong supporting performances from Scott Glenn, William Baldwin, Robert De Niro, and the usual riveting cameo by Donald Sutherland as a psychopath. The DVD transfer of this film faithfully retains its visual quality and exciting soundtrack, and I enjoy it, too, for all the Chicago locales, this being one of my favourite cities.
Executive Decision surprised me with its skillful direction and ability to maintain tension in this airplane hijack thriller. It is also an excellent crash course in the anatomy of a 747 jet, as the hidden paratroopers try to outwit the ruthless, psychotic Arab terrorists. There have been some real stinker suspense films, for example Sudden Death, but Executive Decision is an exciting ride, with focused and plausible performances by Russell and Halle Berry as a brave flight attendant.
Both video and audio quality are excellent in either film, with great Dolby Digital surround. Though The Fifth Element sets a standard of its own, both of these films also show how good DVDs can consistently look and sound in only the second year of the technology.