Swordfish (HD DVD)

January 28, 2012 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

As we delve further and further into the age of computers, we naturally learn more and more information about us and others is not secure. Such is the premise behind Swordfish. Hackers, or any other of their nicknames, if properly motivated can basically break into any database, website or whatever and generally get any and all information about you. Scary, isn’t it? Yes, it’s all true. Though Swordfish is a movie, you can bet that the same thing is going on today, tomorrow and will most likely be going on ten years from now. No longer are computer hackers associated with nerdy, pocket-protector wearing geeks that has been the stereotypes for so many years. Gone are the days of the Bill Gates stereotypes as we enter the 21st century. And as the internet continues it’s exponential growth, more and more of these people are bound to pop up. But so what, right…it’s only your Social Security number and your money!

The essential premise behind Swordfish is relatively simple…Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) is an ex-hacker. He was Wired Magazine’s “Hacker of the year” in 1996, but since then he has been arrested. He has had his job taken away as well as his wife and daughter. Now, he seems more content working construction in Midland, Texas; living in a trailer home and hitting golf balls of it’s roof! Enter Ginger Knowles (Halle Berry). Ginger works for Gabriel Shear (John Travolta) and has been sent to make Stanley an offer he can’t refuse. What the world doesn’t know about Ginger is that she is working undercover and that looks can be very deceiving. Stanley is being pursued by the cop who put him away, J.T. Roberts (Don Cheadle), and who won’t rest until he sees that justice is finally served. On a side note, Cheadle is great here as a cop, as per his usual. Now the whole premise is this…is Stanley still among the best hackers in the world–if not the best? If not, he’s dead. And all of this leads us to what Operation Swordfish really is. Am I going to tell you? You bet. In the early 80’s, the government set up a lot of dummy corporations (legitimate corporations that are legal, but don’t really sell and/or do anything). They earned money, of course, and were shut down in 1986. At that time, the earnings were worth around $400 million dollars (a lot of money). Since then, though, the money has sat in bank accounts and is now over 9 billion dollars. What Gabriel wants to do is hack into the system and collect the money for himself on behalf of the American government.

By paying Stanley 10 million dollars, more than enough to get custody of his daughter back, Gabriel hopes to accomplish his goal. Let’s face it…the plot won’t challenge you and I don’t want to give much more away. I will say that this disc is worth it’s weight in gold as it does feature a topless Halle Berry! She agreed to do the topless scene for under a million dollars (no one knows why, as she was already a multi-millionaire) and I don’t think anyone is complaining. John Travolta has his movies where he is on and off, but this one seems to be a bit better than some of his more recent work. Sporting his “Pulp Fiction” hair style with a “soul patch” added to give him that edge, it’s Travolta’s turn to woo the crowd. The supporting cast does a good job as well, Jackman is a convincing programmer but you’ll have to stomach a 5 minute scene where he drinks a bottle of wine and “rips it up” while doing his programming. I–can’t talk about that anymore without making myself sick. Swordfish is pure fun and will most likely be many viewers’ guilty pleasure. Will your password be accepted?

Video: How does it look?

The standard issue of “Swordfish” looked pretty darn good and watching it on HD-DVD shows just how good a movie can look. I compared this version and the standard DVD release and though it looked great (the standard DVD), the HD version is just simply that much better. The lack of edge enhancement is a big factor in making the picture pristine. It just has a more “film like” quality and seems more fluid. The movie features a brilliant 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer, “Swordfish” will not only light up your screen, but will have you looking to find most any error in it’s presentation. Keep in mind this isn’t a perfect transfer, but it’s close. A few words about how it was shot…the entire movie seems to have a very over-exposed look to it. There are lots of oranges, hues of green and tints that I don’t even know what to explain. It’s very interesting, that’s certain. Take a look at the cover…that should tell you how the image will look. Shots at night have a very eerie feel about them, like there is a full moon overhead or something. The edge enhancement is only a minor problem, and there isn’t any artifacting to deal with. The black levels are dead on and the print is nearly flawless.

Audio: How does it sound?

Another benefit of HD-DVD is an increased sound from the Dolby True HD soundtrack and you if the first ten minutes of the movie don’t convince you of how powerful a soundtrack this is – nothing will. While the dialogue is normal and free of any distortion, the surrounds get the workout of a lifetime. The opening scene features a unique, slow-motion explosion that literally makes a full circle about your speakers. Your subwoofer gets a workout too as gunshots, explosions and nearly everything else that can make noise, sounds amplified and outstanding while watching the movie. So many times I’ve said “this isn’t something that you can show your friends and say…listen to this”. Well, this is. Fill your living room and sit everyone in front of the TV and make them listen to the first ten minutes of the movie.

Supplements: What are the extras?

I will note that the HD-DVD has the same extras as its standard DVD counterpart. “Swordfish” has endless possibilities when it comes to extras, the features a few that are worth mentioning. The first is a feature-length commentary with director Dominec Sena. Sena is very informative and manages to fill the whole track while only briefly sitting back to enjoy his own work. Despite his name, Mr. Sena is very much American and delivers a good commentary here. Also included are two featurette’s though the box labels them as documentaries. The first is the cleverly entitled “The Making of Swordfish” which is actully an HBO First Look. Like most “making of” featurettes, this features all the same stuff. Interviews with the cast, how Hugh Jackman admired John Travlota,etc. It clock in just under 15 minutes and gives you some insight into the making of the film. The next featurette is entitled “The Effects in Focus” which focuses on the climatic bus scene. I don’t want to ruin it for those who haven’t seen it, but as they say…”Ron Silver is producing this movie and there’s very little he hasn’t done–so what do you do”? A very insightful 9 minute featurette. Lastly, there are two alternate endings, each with optional commentary. The first is totally different than the original ending, but as Sena puts it, ‘it just didn’t feel right’. The second is a lot closer to the actual ending, though they felt it was more of a compromise of the original ending and the first one. Interesting, as I like to see the way movies “could have been”. Lastly, there is a trailer presented in anamorphic widescreen and some cast bios.

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