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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 2/17/00

Primary Colors
1998 (1999) - Universal

review by Brad Pilcher of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Primary Colors Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A+/A-/C-

Specs and Features

144 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:05:05, in chapter 18), Amaray keep case packaging, film-themed menu screens, scene access (40 chapters), languages: English & French (DD 5.1) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish

"I'm going to tell you something really outrageous. I'm going to tell you the truth."

Primary Colors is a film about Clinton. It's that simple, and there is no denying it - even if names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent. But this isn't just a film that shows how "bad" a guy Clinton was, and it isn't a movie that's trying to gloss over the faults of one our most charming presidents. This film is grounded in reality, and that's why it succeeds.

John Travolta jumps into the role of Governor Jack Stanton, and delivers a dead-on portrayal of pre-White House "Clinton". Travolta, however, is hardly the best actor in this, though. Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton and Kathy Bates all come out shining. This is a film that really works because of the acting, and this point cannot be underscored enough. Also turning in a memorable performance in the film is Adrian Lester, who delivers the lead role wonderfully. It's a shame he's so overshadowed by the other names in this, because he really carries the film.

The audience follows the story through the eyes of Lester's idealistic campaign manager. As the story goes on, Lester sees his idealism tarnished by the various indiscretions of the candidate he believes in. Through him, the audience is forced to rectify the two views. You don't have to be idealistic or a complete cynic, because both ideals are well depicted here. The requirement that they be rectified is what brings us out of the black and white world of media-portrayed politics and into the reality that these are flawed people (just like everyone else) trying to be the ideal we demand to elect. Simply fantastic!

Technically, the disc is top-notch. The dual-layered approach allows for a higher bit-rate in compression and it shows. Film grain, nada. Artifacts, nope. The anamorphic treatment doesn't hurt either. The soundfield is also very nice. So many great DVDs aren't action blockbusters, but just good movies that sound splendid. Primary Colors is one of those films.

Supplement-wise, this disc is a bit lacking. If there was ever a movie crying out for an audio commentary (or three), this is it. What we do get is a trailer and your usual mix of bios and production notes. Nothing stellar, but it has all the requirements. I still would have liked to see some commentary though.

Having not read the book this film was adapted from, I can't say if it's better or worse in its goal. What I can say is that the film does wonderfully, either way. Despite the slim supplements, this film is easily worth the price. But be ready to question our sometimes one-dimensional ideas of who our politicians are and what we demand them to be. Just for making us think, this is a definite must-buy.

Brad Pilcher
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