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Roger Donaldson's film benefits from a literate screenplay by Robert Bolt, who here as in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), brings real insight into the English institutional mind in conflict. Hopkins is at his complex best and Gibson offers more depth than his usual two-dimensional hero persona; here Bligh and Christian emerge as complex men gripped by circumstances beyond their control. The haunting score by Vangelis contributes immensely to a very underrated film which deserves to be considered a modern classic.
On the DVD: There is an excellent 52-minute "making of" documentary that mixes historical information with on-location interviews. A 12-minute overview of previous screen versions of the story is narrated by the film's historical consultant, Stephen Walters, who also provides a somewhat stilted but nevertheless informative audio commentary. The second audio commentary is from director Roger Donaldson, Producer Bernie Williams and Production Designer John Graysmark, who genuinely appear to enjoy reminiscing and have real enthusiasm for the movie. Also included is a fascinating 28-page booklet.
This is the stuff Special Editions should always be made of, and this would be one of the finest DVDs on the market were it not for the transfer of the film itself, which appears to be a reprocessed version of the same NTSC anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer found on the bare-bones Region 1 DVD, with no sign of PAL speed-up. The picture not only shows considerable grain in some scenes, but also demonstrates marked compression artefacting and enhancement shimmer on all horizontal lines, making some scenes extremely ugly. For such a beautiful film it is a most disappointing transition to the digital format. Most unusually for a UK release, the disc is region free.--Gary S Dalkin