New Spy DVDs Out This Week (And Last)
There are two very high-profile spy titles of note out this week, from Universal and Criterion. Uni unleashes what's for my money the best spy movie of the year–and best movie, for that matter (so far)–on DVD and Blu-ray: Green Zone. Hopefully it will do better on home video than it did in theaters. The generous DVD special features include a commentary with star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass, deleted scenes, featurettes ("Inside the Green Zone", "Matt Damon: Ready for Action"), and a that stupid digital copy of the film that all the studios are still so crazy about. The Blu-ray release includes all that plus additional BD-Live and U-Control features. Hopefully more people will discover this amazing action movie on DVD than saw it in the theaters. As I said in my review, fans of Greengrass's Bourne movies are likely to love Green Zone; the thrust-the-viewer-in-the-thick-of-it action scenes are just as good as those in the awesome Bourne Ultimatum (and far, far superior to Mark Forster's attempt to replicate the style in the lacklustre Quantum of Solace). And, just to be clear, Green Zone is a propulsive spy action movie, not a grim antiwar drama or a political diatribe, as some would suggest. Read my full review of Green Zone here.
As I mentioned just last week, today [er, next Tuesday, that is] also sees the release of one of the terrific spy films of the Forties long absent from DVD, courtesy of The Criterion Collection: Carol Reed's Night Train to Munich, starring Rex Harrison and The Lady Vanish's Margaret Lockwood. Lockwood isn't all that this decidely Hitchcockian comedic thriller has in common with The Lady Vanishes, either. Besides a train setting, the two movies also share a couple of screenwriters (Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat) and the cricket-loving comic relief characters Charters and Caldicott (Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, who also played the roles in a second feature included on Criterion's Lady Vanishes DVD). Night Train to Munich (1940) follows Harrison as a dashing British secret agent accompanying a Czech scientist and his daughter across war-torn Europe as they attempt to evade Nazi spies. Besides the first-rate transfer Criterion is known or, DVD features include a "new video conversation between film scholars Peter Evans and Bruce Babington about director Carol Reed, screenwriters Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat, and the social and political climate in which Night Train to Munich was made" and a booklet with an essay by film critic Philip Kemp.
EDIT: Whoops! Looks like I jumped the gun on this one. I guess that's what happens when you try to sneak in updates while on vacation. Night Train to Munich isn't out until next week.
There were also a few notable spy releases last week that I didn't get around to posting about.
Unthinkable directly to DVD (and Blu-ray). Despite favorable reviews, however, that's exactly what happened, and here it is. Jackson plays a counter-terrorism agent who clashes with Carrie-Anne Moss's by-the-book FBI agent when he resorts to torture techniques that would make even Jack Bauer blush when interrogating a terrorist (Michael Sheen) who has planted bombs in multiple American cities.