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Release Date(s)1995 (September 30, 2008)
Outbreak is a film I recall really enjoying in the theatre, more than I expected. And having just rewatched it on Blu-ray, I find that, not only does it hold up surprisingly well, it’s still just enjoyable. Yeah, I know... a military, medical, quasi-action thriller with Dustin Hoffman in the lead role doesn’t sound entirely compelling, but bear with me. It’s still pretty damn good, and Wolfgang Peterson’s deft direction, not to mention a first-rate supporting cast, has a lot to do with that.
If any of you have read The Hot Zone, you’ll have a pretty good idea what to expect here. Hoffman plays Colonel Sam Daniels, an Army virologist at USAMRIID (the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases). When an outbreak of the mysterious and deadly Motaba virus (think Ebola on steroids) wipes out a village in Africa, Daniels and his team (including Kevin Spacey and Cuba Gooding Jr.) are sent to investigate. It’s scary, but it looks like the virus was do deadly that there’s little chance of it spreading – everyone who was infected died very quickly, before they could contaminate anyone else. But Daniels is still concerned, because they failed to find the source of the infection. That concern turns out to be justified, when an illegal shipment of infected monkeys (intended to be sold as pets) turns up in California, and the disease escapes into the local population. Fearing the worst, the President and Daniels’ Army superiors (Morgan Freeman and Donald Sutherland) prepare to contain this new outbreak the hard way – by destroying the affected town entirely before the virus has the chance to spread. So Daniels and his team must race against the clock to create a workable vaccine before the Army plays its final hand. But it’s not going to be easy, and what Daniels doesn’t know is that there’s a lot more to the situation than he’s been told.
The Blu-ray Disc version offers the film in solid video and audio quality. The transfer exhibits nice contrast and color, and detail is generally good. There’s light grain visible, but in some shots it almost appears that grain reduction has been done – occasionally, faces seem a little too unnaturally smooth and soft looking. Still, fine image detail is usually adequate, so it’s not distracting. A good audio mix is available in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, and it supports the images well. Dialogue is clear, there’s decent bass, and the surrounds are lively during action scenes. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy here in terms of A/V quality, but there’s nothing really objectionable either.
I should note that this disc, like the original DVD release before it, has absolutely nothing in the way of bonus features. That’s disappointing to be sure, but the Blu-ray will only set you back $15 on Amazon, so it’s not like you’re paying through the nose. In any case, for most of you, Outbreak is probably best considered a good rental title. But it is a darned good thriller in its way, so whether you buy it or rent it, it’s definitely worth a spin.
- Bill Hunt