Heavyweight actors starring in movies based on actual events highlight the best of Blu-ray releases now available this week.
Bridge of Spies (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, $39.99, 141 minutes) — Director Steven Spielberg’s latest epic arrives to home theaters for movie lovers intrigued by shenanigans set during the Cold War.
Nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture, the historical drama starred Tom Hanks as former Nuremberg prosecutor James B. Donovan.
The lawyer gets forced to defend a Russian spy in the American courts and eventually helps free U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers and an American student from Soviet imprisonment through a 1962 prisoner swap.
The moody thriller excels through Mr. Hanks’ performance, underlying the fine art of back-room negotiation, and Mark Rylance as the intriguing Russian spy Rudolf Abel, who takes all of the political intrigue in stride.
A digital transfer (presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio) offers an impeccable look at a slightly grainy New York and very bleak, color-draining Berlin during the 1960s (a city literally being torn apart by a wall), a vision created by Mr. Spielberg, cinematographer Janusz Kamiński and production designer Adam Stockhausen.
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Although, I would have a loved an optional commentary track with Mr. Spielberg, I appreciated roughly 42 minutes of looking back at the real events that inspired the movie.
Broken up into four segments, the fantastic mini-documentaries look at the U-2 Spy plane, the building of the Berlin Wall, an overview of the key characters and the world of spying during that time period and the details of the actual spy swap.
The segments feature a visit from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the set, archival audio from Mr. Powers and interviews with Mr. Powers’ son.
Truth (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, rated R, $34.99, 125 minutes) — Director James Vanderbilt’s cinematic chronicle of the incident that questioned the journalistic integrity of one of network television’s most famed broadcasters moves from movie theater to home theater screens and stars the mighty Robert Redford as CBS News’ Dan Rather.
Based on award-winning news producer Mary Mapes’ memoir “Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power,” the movie explores the controversy surrounding her team’s investigative report that exposed President George W. Bush’s supposed preferential treatment while in the Texas Air National Guard.
The film also stars Cate Blanchett as Miss Mapes delivering a strong performance that highlights the producer at the top of her game and ultimate fall from grace while complementing Mr. Redford’s interpretation of the news giant.
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Viewers will need to conduct their own online investigation to ultimately decide if this was a case of sloppy journalism or a giant conspiracy by the Republican administration to not only protect Viacom from further regulation but also solidify Mr. Bush’s 2004 re-election bid.
Most important extras include an 11-minute featurette starring Mr. Rather and Miss Mapes recalling the furor over the investigation, explaining their perspective, questioning the integrity of news and asking what exactly is the definition of “truth.”
Also, an optional commentary track with Mr. Vanderbilt (screenwriter as well as director) and producers Brad Fisher and William Sherak offers a talkative and worthy discussion on the origins and production of the movie.
They mostly avoid making opinions on the real story and enthusiastically dig deep into “making of” detail sure to make a film school student smile, such as how the movie’s color was gradually desaturated to subtly highlight Miss Mapes’ downward spiral.