|Written by Noah Fleming|
|Monday, 18 May 2009|
"Paycheck" is based on Philip K. Dick's novel. More famous book to screen adaptations by the author are, "Minority Report" and "Blade Runner." I would place "Paycheck" in the middle of those two. "Blade Runner" is obviously a classic. While "Minority Report" was well received, I thought it to be poor due to Tom Cruise's overacting. I can't stand that. Luckily, "Paycheck" enlists much better actors.
"Paycheck" is basically the same story as "Minority Report," but it is much more interesting. Both films have to do with predicting the future. "Paycheck" uses a machine to do it, while "Minority Report" uses telepathy and human beings. Ben Affleck stars as Michael Jennings, a genius engineer that is hired by computer companies to perform specific tasks. Jennings specializes in reverse engineering. The film opens with Jennings spending two months creating a new holographic computer system based on an existing product. Of course, Jennings improves it. The catch is that each job that Jennings does he does not remember. After the completion of each job his memory is erased using a memory targeting and destroying device.
One day his life changes forever. He is invited to a party by friend, Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart), head of Allcom. Jennings is presented with an offer totaling at least eight figures. The catch is, it is going to take more than two months. In fact, it is going to take three years. Jennings weighs the pros and cons and decides to go ahead with the paycheck. When Jennings returns to Allcom he is injected with an isotope that acts as a memory marker. When he is done he will be injected with another isotope that will erase everything from the present to the first marker. We aren't given the privilege of experiencing those three years. Instead, we jump right form his initiation to his exit.
This is where things start to go wrong for Jennings. He apparently is supposed to have 90 million dollars in the bank, but when he goes to collect he is told that he forfeited his shares of the company in exchange for the contents of a paper envelope. It only gets worse from there. The FBI arrest Jennings by lethal force as they believe that he is a traitor to his country.
Jennings has to use bits and clues to try and figure out what happened to his money, why the FBI believes he is a traitor and why others are out to kill him. We learn that the envelope Jennings possesses contains items that will help him alter the future, his future. There is way too much to describe, as it is all the little events that make up the whole.
Uma Thurman and Ben Affleck give solid performances. I expect nothing less from Thuman, but I was pleasantly surprise at the caliber of performance that Affleck gave. As supporting cast members, Aaron Eckhart and Paul Giamatti also did an excellent job.
The film flows rather nicely. I was always intent on what was happening, never feeling like I wanted to turn off the movie. Still, there are things from the book that are left out of the movie, for complexity reasons I am sure. Fortunately, they are not as major as the storylines left out of "The Da Vinci Code."
"Paycheck" comes to Blu-ray with an MPEG-4 AVC encode and a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The film looks a bit older than a 2003 film, but it still holds up well. The colors are bright and bold. The stable and deep black levels help to provide that pop to the image. Contrast and brightness are well balanced. Shadow delineation is decent but not excellent. The image does have a fine layer of grain throughout the film. The biggest issue this transfer has is with the source print. The image is plagued with blemishes, dust and dirt. Most are not bothersome, but there are instances in which they become distracting. Details are terrific, with skin and costume textures readily apparent. Fleshtones are warm and fairly accurate, with perhaps a slight push toward orange and red.
The real treat on this Blu-ray is the audio track. Presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, the audio is very immersive. Throughout the entire film I had no problem with envelopment. Even in the quietest sequences the ambience in the surrounds filled the space nicely. Discreet sound effects are plentiful and are spread throughout the five audio channels. Bullet ricochets are nicely panned from one speaker to another. Front and rear divergence factors are smooth, however sometimes they do not exactly match the action on/off screen. The shootout in Union Station is a good example of flying bullets and panning. The LFE channel is up and down. I would have preferred a bit more ummph in the action sequences. Still, they were pretty good. Dynamics are fairly extensive and frequency response is even. The dialogue is anchored in the front center and is always audible. However, one dB is gain on the center channel would have made the mix just a bit better. This disc definitely has several reference moments.
In terms of special features, this disc contains the same bonus materials as the previous standard DVD. There are two audio commentaries. The first is with director John Woo and the second is with screenwriter Dean Georgaris. Both tracks provide some good information but I felt like the two commentaries could have been combined into one track. "Paycheck: Designing the Future" is a typical making-of featurette. "Tempting Fate: The Stunts of 'Paycheck'" is a typical stunts featurette. Lastly there are some extended and deleted scenes, which don't offer much to the film. All bonus materials are presented in standard definition.
"Paycheck" is provides some good entertainment and a developed story. While there are other films out there dealing with the future and affecting its outcome, "Paycheck" is one of the better ones, especially when compared to the recent "S. Darko" film. The audio and video qualities are both excellent, making this a Blu-ray to add to your collection.