Saturday, March 24, 2007

FAR AND AWAY (Universal 1992) Universal Home Video

Ron Howard’s Far and Away (1992) is a thinly veiled vintage tableau soap opera fleshed out by several marvelous set pieces and an exhilarating final act. The film stars Tom Cruise as Joseph Donnelly: a fighting-mad Irishman who after being forced off his familial land embarks upon a quest for revenge against the land owner, Daniel Christie (Robert Prosky).

Unfortunately for Joseph, his anger is sideswiped by the sight of Daniel’s daughter, the lovely Shannon (Nicole Kidman), who is currently engaged to simpering property manager, Steven Chase (Thomas Gibson). Steven engages Joseph in a duel which he wins. However, Joseph’s spirit wins Shannon’s heart. After the destruction of the Christie family estate, Shannon and her family leave Ireland for the United States.

Joseph follows suit on the grand migration/adventure to America to stake his own claim on a better life. What the young buck soon discovers is that the streets of New York are not paved with gold as much as they reek of the stench of hard-earned sweat from men’s brows and fists. After Joseph defends himself in a boxing tournament, he is voted fisticuffs champion and embarks upon a lucrative career that once again brings him in direct confrontation with Shannon and her family.

Director Howard is rather self-indulgent with this filmic fairytale of true love conquering all. His attention to period and costumes is most commendable. But the story concocted by Bob Dolman and Howard is so cliché ridden and contrived, its central narrative is in constant danger of sinking the entire enterprise.

Ultimately, the film is little more than another chance for Cruise to preen for the camera as the ‘then’ undisputed box office king of his generation. The Oklahoma land rush that effectively concludes the narrative is a direct cheat on the opening from Cimarron (1931), but staged with enough harrowing stunt work and cinematic bravado to anesthetize the viewer into quiet admiration and minor forgetfulness for all that has gone before it.

Universal Home Video’s DVD provides an adequate anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors are rich, bold and fully saturated. Flesh tones are a tad too pink. Contrast levels are nicely realized. Blacks are deep. Whites adopt a slight blue tint. Occasionally, film grain is more prevalently represented than was evident in the original theatrical presentation. The filmic elements were 70mm – hence, a pronounced smoothness is expected. The audio is Dolby 5.1 surround and quite aggressive across all channels. This is one of Universal’s first forays into DVD and one of their better efforts. There are NO extras!

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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