Plot: What’s it about?
Story- Print Ritter (Robert Duvall) and his nephew Tom Harte (Thomas Hayden Church) are no greenhorns when it comes to driving horses, but this drive is a rough one, even for a veteran like Ritter. The two men will drive three hundred horses from Oregon to Wyoming, through a bitter stretch that turns away even skilled horsemen. The drive is going to be long and brutal, but the two soon learn it will be even harder than either ever imagined. In the drive, the two run across a vicious slave trader and take it upon themselves to give safe passage to five Chinese women, previously held as slaves. So now not only is the drive hard because of the horses and the usual obstacles, now the two have to watch over the women and fend off various nefarious characters. Can Ritter and Harte finish the drive and if so, how will the unusual journey impact their lives?
If all made for television productions were up to the level of Broken Trail, then the “made for television” label would be much more respected. Broken Trail is simply excellent and if I didn’t know it beforehand, I wouldn’t have guessed this was a television mini-series. At just over three hours, Broken Trail could be a feature film and thanks to superb direction, performances, and overall production values, it feels like a movie, not a mini-series. Walter Hill unfolds this story just right, with great skill that allows the emotion and humanity to shine through, while also crafting a Western in the classic sense. Hill includes the usual Western cliches, but does so with perfect timing and never dulls the material’s shine. Broken Trail also boasts great efforts from Robert Duvall and Thomas Hayden Church, as well as an on their game supporting cast. Broken Trail won an Emmy for Best Mini-Series and it was well deserved, so this release earns a high recommendation.
Video: How does it look?
Broken Trail is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. I don’t have a lot to comment on here, as this is one impressive visual presentation. The mini-series has some soft focus photography, which does exactly what you’d expect, but this is still a sharp, well detailed transfer. The image might not be three dimensional, but it looks great and has good depth and the slight softness is part of the intended visual design. I was floored by the colors here, with beautiful hues that stand out, like the blues, greens, and browns that dominate the landscape shots. No problems with contrast either, as black levels look spot on, but I did notice some noise at times, which we could do without. Even with a couple small issues, this is a great visual transfer that almost earned five stars and should thrill fans to no end.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 option isn’t as memorable as the visuals, but it covers all the bases. The audio has a pleasant, natural presence that makes you feel like you’re out on the plains yourself. The surrounds don’t add much to that atmosphere however, as there isn’t a lot of presence in the rear channels. Even so, the front channels shoulder the majority of the audio well and the elements come across in decent fashion. I do think more aggressive use of the surrounds would have enhanced some scenes, but even as it is, the audio is fine. This disc also includes French, Portuguese, and Spanish language tracks, as well as subtitles in English, Arabic, Dutch, Bahasa, French, Chinese, Portuguese, and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The lone supplement is a featurette that runs just over twenty minutes, with interviews and behind the scenes footage. The short duration prevents much depth, but what is here is worth a look. You can tell those involved had great passion for the project, as it shows not only in these interviews, but in the mini-series itself.