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Seabiscuit (2003) Print E-mail
Thursday, 28 May 2009
ImageI must admit, this is the first time that I have seen "Seabiscuit."  It just isn't high on my priority list.  Sports film, particularly boxing and horseracing are not among my favorites.  Still, I kept hearing so much praise for this film, that when it came my way I figured I would give it a chance.  The film is exceptionally good, but it just isn't my cup of tea.

In terms of filmmaking the movie is terrific.  In terms of story, I found it pretty good.  Even without having seen the film beforehand, the story was entirely predictable.  There was nothing to grab my attention other than the image.  Still, it is a well-made film, with great cinematography and decent acting.

"Seabiscuit" is based on the legend of the racing horse with the same name.  From what I see in the bonus materials, the film is fairly accurate to the actual events that transpired.  When the film opens, we get introduced to three different characters, each on their own path of life.  As the film progresses we see how their fates are intertwined.

Howard (Jeff Bridges) is a man that turns out to be a brilliant engineer.  Back in 1910, automobiles were on the rise.  Howard modifies the Stanley Steam Engine to be a top-notch performer.  He becomes one of the biggest names in the automobile industry.  Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) is a loner horse lover.  He prides himself on saving horses that would otherwise be put down.  Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire) is an above average size jockey.  After being ditched by his family, he travels the country performing odd horse jobs here and there.  While trying to become an establish rider, he takes part in boxing matches.

When the stock market crash of 1929 hits, people are desperate.  They find solace in gambling and watching the horse races.  Howard realizes that he should invest in a thoroughbred horse.  And so, Howard finds Smith, Smith finds Seabiscuit and Pollard.  Pollard is still thick headed and cannot follow directions, costing several wins.

Seabiscuit is a descendent of a legendary horse.  However, because Seabiscuit is a small horse by racing standards he has been used all his life to train other horses.  Smith, a natural horse whisperer gets Howard to purchase Seabiscuit and the training begins.  Using Pollard as the jockey, Smith first gets Seabiscuit to remember what it's like to just be a horse.  When Seabiscuit breaks a track record during a trial run, the team sets off to enter him in the races.

As it turns out, Seabiscuit needs a bit of competition in order to go full out.  Once he catches the eye of a fellow horse, he lets loose and wins nearly every race.  Once Pollard and Seabiscuit bond, they are all but unbeatable.  After winning several simple races, Smith persuades Howard to try and get a race with the War Admiral, a true racehorse.  The owner of the War Admiral refuses Howard at every turn.  Eventually, the public begins to demand a match race between War Admiral and Seabiscuit. Finally the match race is on.  However, the stupidity of Pollard results in a tragic accident in which he is dragged by a horse around the stable and eventually crashes into a wall.  Pollard's leg fractures in a dozen places and is said to never be able to ride again.  Pollard gets his friend George to take his place.  With a new rider, Seabiscuit goes back into training.

On November 1st, the race is on.  Utilizing all the information that he got from Pollard, George is able to defeat the War Admiral.  Since that is not enough, George continues to race Seabiscuit and tragedy strikes when Seabiscuit tears an entire ligament in his front right leg.  Howard, not about to put down his horse, brings Seabiscuit back to his ranch where he is reunited with Pollard.  The two of them pal around together.  Eventually, Pollard sees Seabiscuit getting his strength back and gets the idea that they both could race again.

Pollard begins retraining Seabiscuit to get ready for the final showdown.  It is inspiring how both Pollard and Seabiscuit come back from disabling injuries to do what everyone said was impossible, to race once again.

Universal uses the same video transfer for this Blu-ray as with the previously released HD DVD.  Both the HD DVD and standard DVD had stellar transfers.  So, naturally, the Blu-ray is also exquisite.  The image is life like.  The source is pristine and only a minor amount of film grain is present to give it that cinematic quality.  The black levels are impeccable, providing a three-dimensional pop to the image.  The colors a vibrant, but still remain accurate to the time period.  The entire image has a yellow push to it, but it is not overbearing.  The shadow delineation is a bit weaker than I would have preferred, but it is still stellar.  There are no noise issues as with the standard DVD.  "Seabiscuit" has a near perfect image transfer.  It just lacks that cherry on top, but is certainly demo worthy.

The audio for this Blu-ray has been upgraded to DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio from the previous HD DVD's Dolby Digital Plus audio track.  The audio track is given good treatment here.  The horse racing sequences contain the most activity.  The LFE channel is powerful during these scenes, but is lacking elsewhere in the film.  The dynamics are expansive.  The dialogue is always clear and audible, but may dip a little on the low side due to the expansive dynamics.  The frequency response is also expansive.  All the sound effects and dialogue are full spectrum.  The surround channels get proper treatment during the horse racing sequences, with horse stamping panned nicely from front to rear and crowd noise properly place in the surrounds.  This is an excellent audio track.

The Blu-ray contains all the same bonus materials that were on the HD DVD.  Unlike nearly all of their past Blu-ray titles, Universal has not encoded the bonus materials for use with their U-Control function.

"Bringing the Legend to Life: The Making of 'Seabiscuit'" is a brief typical making-of featurette.  "Anatomy of a Movie Moment" examines a couple of the film's more important scenes via an interview with director Gary Ross.  "Seabiscuit: Racing Through History" takes a look at the real history of Seabiscuit.  "Photo Finish: Jeff Bridges' On-Set Photographs" is exactly what the name implies.  "Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral, the 1938 Match Race" is footage of the real race between the two horses.  "Winners' Circle: The Heroes Behind the Legend" examines the real life persons portrayed by the main actors.  "The True Story of Seabiscuit" is also a historical look at the real life persons.  "HBO First Look" is the TV special that aired on HBO.  "The Longshot: A Special Message From Buick" is nonsense.  Lastly, the Blu-ray is equipped with a feature audio commentary with director Gary Ross and Steven Soderbergh.  This is an engaging, interesting and informative audio commentary that is actually worth a listen.

"Seabiscuit" a good film that many people will love.  I for one only need to see this film once.  However, the video and audio quality are spectacular and should not be missed.  I recommend this disc to everyone, but only recommend the film for horse lovers and horse racing fans.

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