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Hanover Street

review by Ren C.

Rated PG

Studio: Columbia/Tristar

Running Time: 109 minutes

Starring Harrison Ford, Lesley-Anne Down, Christopher Plummer

Written and Directed by Peter Hyams

Retail Price: $19.95

Features: Bonus Trailers, Director's Commentary

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 4.0 Discrete Surround, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, Dolby Digital French 2.0, Dolby Digital Spanish 2.0, English Subtitles:, French Subtitles:, Spanish Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, Chinese Subtitles, Korean Subtitles, Thai Subtitles, English Closed Captions

Released: July 31st, 2001

It seems like movies about World War II have been explored from every conceivable angle. Unfortunately, Hanover Street breaks no new ground. At its heart, the movie wants to be both action-adventure and romance, but in doing so, the movie takes on a very schizophrenic approach and at times seems to almost splinter into two separate movies.

Both of the two plots, which remain separated for most of the movie, revolve around David Halloran (Harrison Ford), a pilot in the United States army. The movie begins with one of the main reasons that I have a problem with it. The movie literally throws itself into the middle of a situation, and while most times this is a good thing, in this instance it leaves the viewer disoriented for several minutes as they try to figure out what is going on. The movie opens in downtown London with Halloran trying to pick up a woman; whose name we later find out is Margaret (Lesley-Anne Down). The movie takes us through some of the annoyingly cute banter that always seems to infest romance movies. At the end of this extended discussion, Halloran has already fallen in love and, in between bomb attacks, tells Margaret that he will meet her at that same spot in two weeks. She resists and says that she can't make it, but he will be there regardless.

Then, the movie decides to switch to the action segment, showing Halloran and his team taking part in bombing missions. This seems like no more than a momentary distraction, however, as we quickly cut ahead to two weeks later and the same street corner in London where Halloran and Margaret have reunited. In vignettes interspersed between, we find out that Margaret is married with a child, but this doesn't stop her from consummating her relationship with Halloran fairly quickly.

Between this interlude and Halloran's next meeting with Margaret, the movie presents us with other situations in order to make us think that there are secondary characters and some semblance of a plot. In essence though, this is a two character movie, which would have been easier to tolerate had the movie not forced other characters upon the viewer. To condense the plot slightly, Halloran and Margaret's relationship goes on until he is called away on a secret mission in which he has to fly into enemy territory one very special piece of cargo-Margaret's husband.

If this movie had been able to make a decision as to whether it was an action movie or a romantic movie, it may have better, but the way that director Peter Hyams put it together, it stands out as very fragmented. While the movie is never hard to follow, there seem to be so many transitions that at times the viewer's head is left spinning. While all of the participants in the movie make a worthwhile effort, with Ford especially coming off well, the characters just seem very two-dimensional throughout. In all, this seems like a genuine attempt to make a good war movie that just falls short.

For a '70s movie, this anamorphic transfer looks extremely good. There is very little noticeable grain throughout, and certainly none of it is present enough to be distracting. Blacks are more often than not deep and rich, and the movie is virtually free of artifacts. My only major complaint is that some of the colors look slightly washed out, especially in some of the bombing scenes. Overall, though this is a very good transfer.

While the Dolby 4.0 track provided here is adequate, it fell slightly short of what I expected it to be. Dialogue, especially, seemed to fade in and out at times, making it very hard to understand what characters were saying. This is especially noticeable in the transition between two scenes, one of which had characters chatting almost imperceptibly at a table, and the next, which had a very present and audible marching band. Ambient sounds seemed to be just that, ambient, as sound effects on the whole were seemingly very understated. Also provided is a Dolby 2.0 track, along with French and Spanish audio tracks.

For a budget priced, non-blockbuster hit from the late '70s, this has about the number of features that I would expect. However, it commits the cardinal sin amongst features with me, namely leaving out the film's original theatrical trailer-or any sort of trailer for the film. Three Trailers for other, fairly random movies are included including, appropriately enough, Random Hearts, the 1999 version of The End of the Affair and The Remains of the Day.

The other features provided here is an Audio Commentary With Director Peter Hyams, who kicks off the commentary by stating that he has not seen the movie since 1978. Sadly, this does not lead to any sort of particularly interesting or insightful commentary from Hyams, who tends to be not the most interesting speaker in the world. He seems to be one of those individuals that has the soothing voice, that combines with the uninteresting comments to lull the listener into boredom.

I really wanted to like this movie. Harrison Ford is, without question, one of the most well known and well-liked actors of our generation, and he definitely holds his own in this movie. However, the bad, clichéd plot just seems to drag his performance downward. The video is good, but the audio not particularly memorable, and the features are completely forgettable. This movie is of interest only if you are a Harrison Ford, or WWII movie completist.

(2/5 - NOT included in final score)




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