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High Crimes (2002) Print E-mail
Thursday, 10 September 2009
ImageConspiracies abound in "High Crimes."  Unfortunately, the film is much less convincing than some of the other films of the same style.  I found "Conspiracy Theory" to be much more entertaining.  "The General's Daughter" and "G.I. Jane" are also military conspiracies that hold more enjoyment than "High Crimes."

The film stars Ashley Judd and Jim Caviezel as a Claire and Tom Kubik, a husband and wife who seem to live an ordinary life.  Little does Claire know, but her husband is an ex-Marine that is wanted by the government.  When their house is broken into the law officials get Tom's fingerprints and match them with Lt. Ron Chapman, wanted for a 12 year-old murder.

According to the military Tom, or Ron is wanted for the murder of nine innocent people in a village in El Salvador in 1988.  His wife is a big shot attorney that acts the part.  She takes leave from her job and moves to the military base where her husband awaits military trial.  The attorney that is assigned to him is a very young officer so she takes over the case.

In order to learn the ropes she enlists the help of Charlie Grimes (Morgan Freeman).  Grimes is an ex-military attorney that has had success against the big shot that is prosecuting Ron Chapman.  As with any typical military or political conspiracy, the attorneys follow the leads that conveniently fall into their laps.  Contrary to the quote on the front cover, this is not a fast-paced thriller.

Quite the opposite, "High Crimes" is predictable and slow.  It seems that the writer was trying to come up with scenes that would lengthen simple sequences.  In the end, the conspiracy doesn't hold water and you are left thinking why did the filmmakers bother with the entire movie if we are left with the existing conclusion to the film.

"High Crimes" has some good moments, particularly those with Ashley Judd and her persuasive attorney skills.  However, those scenes are few and far between.  Morgan Freeman does a good job as well, although his character has an unfulfilled back story.  In terms of story, the film lacks originality.  I can't remember what the first military conspiracy film was, but it certainly wasn't "High Crimes."  There is almost an exact parallel between "High Crimes" and the recently released, "State of Play."  While the latter is a political conspiracy, the plotlines and the outcome are the same.
Better than the movie is the video transfer.  After the near train wreck with "The Girl Next Door," I did not have high hopes for this video release.  I was pleasantly surprised, thankfully.  The film gets an MPEG-4 AVC encode on a single layer Blu-ray disc.  Black levels were quite adequate.  Shadow delineation was nicely differentiated.  Colors are not as vibrant as they could have been.  They waver over the course of the film.  There are moments in Ashley Judd looks absolutely radiant, while in other shots she appears drab, not to the filmmakers' intent.  Film grain is moderate throughout, sometimes imposing distractedly upon the viewing experience.  Details are sufficient, though not as good as recent high quality transfers.  Pans are a bit choppy, suffering from what looks like motion blur.  When the film opens the video is quite questionable.  This is until you realize that it is a handheld video camera image.  However, the framing of the sequences don't lend itself to be immediately recognizable.  When the film moves into San Francisco the video quality becomes accurate.  Contrast is a bit shifty throughout the film but can be strong at times.  Textures, especially on the face are great and fleshtones are accurate.  While the image can appear flat overall at times, the transfer is great on the whole.

There isn't much in the way of the audio transfer.  We are given a DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio track.  The track is primarily dialogue driven.  Dialogue is not as full bodied as I would have liked but it is intelligible.  The LFE channel pops up every now and then but is pretty much absent overall.  The surround channels are empty for the most part.  The woodland opening of the film contains some brief ambience in the surrounds and there are some not direct sound effects in the rears during the more action sequences.  The car crash is full sounding from all directions, but directionality is rather poor.  Panning is stocky.  Enveloping is virtually nil.  The music score is bled into the surround channels, but is hardly noticeable.  Due to the film's couple of more action-type sequences the dynamics seem to jump around.  However, the film is tightly mixed overall so nothing will jump out at you while watching.  A solid audio track with no real technical problems, but underwhelming just the same.

The Blu-ray comes with the same special features that were present on the original DVD of the film.  All of the bonus materials have been left in standard definition.  First there is an audio commentary by director Carl Franklin.  Franklin is lively throughout the film but being the film that this is, there isn't much to talk about.  There are a total of six featurettes.  "A Different Kind of Justice" talks about the differences between military and civilian law.  "Liar Liar: How to Beat a Polygraph with Sue Doucette" is an interesting bonus feature that talks about polygraph testing.  "The Car Crash" discusses the making of the biggest action moment of the film.  "Together Again" talks about the reuniting of Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman.  "FBI Takedown in Union Square" goes behind the scenes of this particular sequence.  The last featurette is "A Military Mystery" which goes behind the adaptation of the novel into the film.  Lastly, there is a theatrical trailer.

"High Crimes" is not the most gripping thriller, mainly due to the poor adaptation of the novel to the screen.  Characters feel like they have no back story and plotlines have been simplified.  The video and audio quality are sufficient but far from truly high quality.  If you are a lover of conspiracy theories then this disc is for you.  Otherwise I would recommend it as a rental.

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