Although director Bruce Beresford("Driving Mrs. Daisy") had a great deal of success with the recent "Double Jeopardy", this 1997 war drama was largely ignored by audiences, taking in less than 2 million dollars (according to the Internet Movie Database). Although it wasn't successful, it's still a fairly well-done picture, with solid performances and moderately well-written characters.
The film revolves around a group of women who are captured by the Japanese and held in a concentration camp during the War. Based on the true stories of women held in these camps, the film stars Glenn Close, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Ehle, Frances McDormand, Pauline Collins, Elizabeth Spriggs, Julianna Margulies, Johanna ter Steege, Wendy Hughes and others as a group of women who form a vocal orchestra to keep their spirits up during their time imprisoned. With the size of the cast, some characters get less time than others, but performances by a young Blanchett, Close and Margulies are stand-outs. The only actress who seems somewhat mis-cast is Oscar winner Frances McDormand("Fargo") as a doctor.
The film is quite lucky to have its excellent cast, because it falls short in other areas. Although the punishment they have to face and the brutal conditions are dramatic and saddening, there are other scenes throughout that really don't do much for the film, with the women chatting about their lives in the outside world. Some of the film remains predictable and despite the strong performances of the cast, many scenes remain particularly slow going.
It's certainly not an unwatchable film, but throughout, I got the feeling that this story could have been told better by writer/director Beresford.
VIDEO: "Paradise Road" is presented in the film's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and like all Fox titles, it is anamorphic. The movie is well-filmed and boasts some great scenery and sets, done justice by Fox's strong work. Sharpness and detail look very good, especially in the film's brighter outdoor sequences, which look well-defined and very pleasing.
Like Fox's other recent release "The Ice Storm", "Paradise Road"'s only flaw that the presentation suffers from is some minor print flaws. Some isolated instances of speckles and marks are noticable, but fairly infrequent and not terribly distracting. Pixelation and shimmer, or other problems, do not appear.
Colors are generally very well-rendered, especially the dark greens of the surrounding jungle. Flesh tones remain accurate, and aside from some minor wear, there isn't too much to complain about, as Fox has done a nice job with Peter James("Meet The Parents")'s strong cinematography.
SOUND: "Paradise Road" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Aside from a couple of more intense battle sequences towards the begining of the picture, there really isn't much in the way of active sound use during the film. Most of the sound comes from the front, and generally, the film is dialogue-driven with slight touches of score occasionally. Surrounds, aside from a couple of early sequences and some slight, subtle use during the remainder of the film, are quiet. Dialogue remains clear and easily understood, with no problems.
MENUS:: Menus are non-animated, with very basic images serving as backgrounds.
EXTRAS: Trailers for "Paradise Road", "Titus", "Grand Canyon", "Inventing The Abbotts", "Smilla's Sense Of Snow" and "The Ice Storm".
Positive: Fox delivers quite well in terms of video quality. Audio is enjoyable, if fairly unremarkable.
Negative: The film has strong moments, but the film is somewhat flawed overall. Those who are fans of the actresses might enjoy this as a rental.
The Film ** 1/2
Video 89/B+ = (356/400 possible points)
Audio: 87/B = (348/400 possible points)
Extras: 70/C- = (210/300 possible points)
Menus: 70/C- = (140/200 possible points)
Value: 81/B = (243/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: ** 1/2
DVD GRADE: B