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What Lies Beneath
Special Edition

review by Zach B.

Rated PG-13

Studio: Dreamworks

Running Time: 113 minutes

Starring Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer

Screenplay by Clark Gregg
Story by Sarah Kernochan and Clark Gregg

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Retail Price: $26.99

Features: Theatrical Trailer, Production Notes, Cast and Crew Bios, Commentary with Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey and Jack Rapke, Construction A Thriller Featurette

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, English 2.0 Dolby Digital, English Subtitles, Chapter Search (24 Chapters)

Raking in 155 million during its summer release, "What Lies Beneath" was one of the most successful films of the year 2000. There's no denying what drew people to this film - an intriguing plot, a great director and two giant Hollywood stars. I expected this film to do well, but I never imagined it'd rake in 155 million... I figured more of the 70-80 million range. Critics praised the film and it basically seemed like some fun, summer release.

I'll have to be honest, I really didn't have an interest in seeing the film. I heard a little about it before hand, but it didn't sound that appealing. I'll admit my interest did perk up when I saw the trailer with "Gladiator", but a minute into the trailer I again had no interest. Why? Like most trailers these days, it gave too much of the film away. It started out mysterious (you can see for yourself on the DVD), but soon all these plot points and whatnot kept coming out and by the time it was finished, I turned to my friend and said "I saw the whole movie".

Claire and Norman Spencer (Pfieffer and Ford) seem like your everyday, happy couple. Their relationship seems to be pretty bold, and they have a teenage daughter, who, at the start of the film, heads off to college. Now that the two have some free time for one another, they seem quite relaxed. But tension rises when Claire starts to hear and see strange things. To top it off, no one really believes her. Claire's paranoia becomes more and more intense, but things get topped off when Norman admits his secret (I won't give it away) and it's all downhill from there.

And so it came time for me to actually "see" this movie again... but this time in full. I have to say, "What Lies Beneath" is not what I expected and I can see why people liked it so much. It starts a little slow, but by the first half hour things start to pick up. Robert Zemeckis, who I consider to be a big-time and one of the best directors working today directed this film, and what he does here is pretty good. Yes, it's a tiny bit schmaltzy and a lot of what he does in this film is more like paying homage to some other great directors (Hitchcock comes to mind). Clark Gregg's script is well written. Dialogue is not really dull and the way he weaves the story is very good. Some may think some of what he does is a bit predictable (oh no... a noise! It's a stranger! No, wait, it's the dog) and I agree, but I like how there is also some sense of mystery to everything, and we wonder who can be trusted and who really can't. I was a bit surprised to learn that Clark Gregg is actually featured in David Mamet's recent film "State and Main" as local politician Doug Mackenzie (just a fun piece of trivia I wanted to share). The acting is first rate, with top draw stars Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer really captures Claire as a woman who has to face certain paranoia and what's going on in her life, while Ford has a deep secret and must help his wife through what's going on.

Again, moviegoers loved this movie, and I don't blame them. It's a crowd pleasing thriller with two big actors, a great director and a well put together story. While I'm not really so much into thrillers, I was pretty surprised how much I ended up liking the movie when I actually sat down to watch it (shouldn't judge a book by its cover... eh?) Dreamworks has also created a nice DVD for "What Lies Beneath", so read on...

 

Again, Dreamworks delivers a spiffy transfer. The tone and beautiful shots are captured in this 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. Colors are solid and fleshtones looks great as well as very accurate. Detail level is some of the strongest I've seen on DVD and shadow as well as black levels are very good. However, I noticed some slight artifacting here and there and some shimmering too. Also, edge enhancement is noticeable in some key scenes. Plus there is the occasional scratch and smudge. No doubt though, this is a stellar transfer.

Dreamworks has once again included DTS and Dolby Digital tracks in 5.1, and each is simply fantastic. I knew this would be a great movie for sound, and I was not disappointed. Each track brings much tension and constructs a lot of dynamic range throughout the film. I watched the movie in DTS and then compared it with some key scenes in Dolby Digital. Each track is superb, but I prefer the DTS because I found it to me a bit more jolty. Each track also makes great use of the .1 LFE. Even the smallest sounds make this track great, such as in the two minute point where there is a zap from an electrical socket and a few seconds later where curtains are opened. The music makes great use of all the channels. I can truly say this is one of the best audio presentations I have heard in a long time, and I'm sure all of you will agree with me once you hear the tracks. An English 2.0 Dolby Surround track is also included.

Fledged as a "special edition", "What Lies Beneath" isn't really a full blown special edition as we've come to see with Chicken Run and The Road To El Dorado... still, it has a featurette and commentary, and I am guessing Dreamworks is calling it a "special edition" due to how big a hit it was over the summer... but what's included is very nice.

A Commentary with Robert Zemeckis, Producer Jack Rapke and Producer Steve Starkey is included. While the menu says "Directors Commentary" (at least on the screener), the two producers join Zemeckis for this commentary. This is a pretty informative track. Everyone gets their say in it, and there's not much silent. A lot of production techniques are discussed and again, I found all of this pretty interesting, yet at times some comments were just plain boring and obvious (I'm pretty sure the viewer can get a grip of some things without having them being pointed out). I have to say sometimes the track is a little annoying to listen to... in the way that it's recorded. Sometimes it sounds like the speakers are talking through a paper towel roll to give a hollow effect, and sometimes the audio from the film overlaps. There is also some annoying distortion. No matter though... still a nice track as I was very glad to hear from all these people. Very good input.

A fifteen minute Featurette entitled Constructing A Thriller is included. It's pretty promotional, which has behind the scenes info, cast interviews and whatnot. It also has a nice little section on Zemeckis himself, with a clip from his great student film, "A Field Of Honor" (which I saw in full when I visted USC last summer). I found this to be a pretty good watch.

Rounding off the bonus features is the spoileriffic Theatrical Trailer in anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1, plus some detailed Production Notes and Cast and Crew Bios.

 

I'm sure some of you will get a kick out of this thriller and I'm sure some of you may be planning to buy it (the last time I mentioned it... audiences loved this movie). Still, if you enjoyed this film or like a decent thriller in general, be sure to pick up "What Lies Beneath". Decent features, nice video and some spectacular sound.

(3.5/5, NOT included in final score)

(4.5/5)

(4.5/5)

(2.5/5)

(3.5/5, NOT an average)

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