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Cliffhanger (a J!-Ent Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 12, 2010 by  



One of the better non-Rambo/Rocky, Sylvester Stallone action films.  Fans of the 1993 film will enjoy “Cliffhanger” on Blu-ray as the picture quality is quite beautiful and the lossless audio soundtrack is absolute fantastic.  If you enjoyed this film, definitely worth picking up on Blu-ray!

Images courtesy of © 1993 Cliffhanger B.V. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Cliffhanger

DURATION: 113 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen 2:40:1, English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

RATED: R (For Violence and Language)

COMPANY: Tri Star/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: January 12, 2010

Directed by Renny Harlin

Original Premise by John Long

Screenplay by Michael France and Sylvester Stallone

Executive Producer: Mario Kassar

Co-Executive Producer: Lynwood SPinks

Producer: Renny Harlin, Alan Marshall

Co-Producer: Gene Patrick Hines, David Rotman, James R. Zatolokin

Associate Producer: Jim Davidson, Tony Munafo

Music by Trevor Jones

Cinematography by Alex Thomson

Edited by Frank J. Urioste

Casting by Mindy Marin

Production Design by John Vallone

Art Direction by Maria-Teresa Barbasso, Aurelio Crugnola, Christiaan Wagener

Set Decoration by Robert Gould, Cynthia Sleiter

Costume Design by Ellen Mirojnick

Starring:

Sylvester Stallone as Gabe Walker

John Lithgow as Qualen

Michael Rooker as Hal Tucker

Janine Turner as Jessie Deighan

Rex Linn as Travers

Caroline Goodall as Kristel

Leon as Kynette

Craig Fairbrass as Delmar

Gregory SCott Cummins as Ryan

Denis Forest as Heldon

Michelle Joyner as Sarah

Max Perlich as Evan

Paul Winfield as Walter Wright

Ralph Waite as Frank

Sarah was an inexperienced climber. She trusted Gabe to rescue her. But something went wrong high above the valley floor…Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Michael Rooker, Janine Turner and Ralph Waite star in this high-altitude avalanche of action: a non-stop adventure peak with suspense and capped with heart-quaking terror. For Rocky Mountain Rescue, the mission is almost routine: locate five climbers. With the woman he loves (Turner) and his best friend (Rooker), Gabe Walker (Stallone) braves the icy peaks only to discover that the distress call is really a trap set by merciless international terrorist Eric Qualen (Lithgow). Now millions of dollars and their own lives hang in the balance. Against explosive firepower, bitter cold, and dizzying heights, Walker must outwit Qualen in a deadly game of hide-and-seek.

In 1993, Renny Harlin (director of “Die Hard 2”) returned with a new action film starring Sylvester Stallone (“Rocky” and “Rambo” films), John Lithgow (“Dexter”, “3rd Rock from the Sun”), Michael Rooker (“The Marine 2”, “Jumper”) and Janine Turner (“Friday Night Lights”, “Strong Women”, “Northern Exposure”).

The film would feature cinematography by Alex Thomason (“The Scarlet Letter”, “Demolition Man”, “Hamlet”) and music by composer Trevor Jones (“The League of Extraordinary Gentleman”, “Around the World in 80 Days”, “Dinotopia”).

The film which cost around $65 million to make did well in the box office as it made over $255 million worldwide and received fairly positive reviews despite many rock climbers felt the depiction of rock climbing was too Hollywood, unrealistic and had quite a bit of inaccuracies.

The film revolves around Gabe Waker (played by Sylvester Stallone), a rock climber and rescue worker who goes to the Rocky Mountains along with helicopter pilot Jessie Deighan (played by Janine Turner) to rescue his friend Hal Tucker (played by Michael Rooker) and Hal’s girlfriend Sarah (played by Michelle Joyner).

While everything seems quite routine and fine, Sarah’s harness breaks off and she is clinging on the line going to the helicopter.  Gabe tries manages to grab Sarah’s arm but he loses her grip and she dies.

Flash forward eight months later and Gabe returns into town for the first time since Sarah’s death.  Feeling guilty for her death, Gabe has stopped climbing the mountains and comes back to be with Jessie but leave the town permanently.

Meanwhile, in the air, a group of thieves led by the ruthless Eric Qualen (played by John Lithgow) try to rob a US Department of Treasury plane carrying $100 million.  We see the US Treasury agent Richard Travers (played by Rex Linn) taking down his own men and trying to grave three suitcases filled with the money and transfer it to the other plane.

But one agent manages to derail their plans by shooting at the thieves plane, killing the pilot and the three suitcases fall down in the mountains.  The thieves have a transmitter on the cases, so they can retrieve them but they need help.

So, the thieves manage to fake an emergency call in which Hal answers the call.  Meanwhile, Jessie asks Gabe to please help Hal and despite not wanting to (Because of his guilt), he decides to help him out.  Even though Gabe knows that Hal is upset at him for the death of his girlfriend.

While the two think they are trying to save people in need, they are held hostage by the thieves who want both men to find the three suitcases and Qualen has every intention of making sure after they are done retrieving the suitcase, both Gabe and Hall will be dead.

After the first suitcase is tracked, Gabe manages to escape and is thought dead due to an avalanche.  While the thieves use Hal to find the next two suitcases, Gabe tries his best to survive and help his friend.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Cliffhanger” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 Widescreen) and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment did a great job in bringing this film to HD.  The Italian alps look absolutely beautiful and there is great detail for the rocks, surrounding scenery. The film is not too vibrant as there is overcast and there are not many vibrant colors seen in the film.  But there is extreme detail captured on the rocks and the ice/snow.

The scenery is just breathtaking and despite the cold and challenging conditions, director Renny Harlin and cinematographer Alex Thomson did a wonderful job in filming the location and various aerial views of people on the mountains.

There is a fine layer of grain on the film, skin tones are natural, blacks are nice and deep and for a 1993 film, no sign of muggy DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) that I can see in this film, nor did I see any major compression artifacts.

But what fans of the film will enjoy is the lossless audio track for “Cliffhanger”.  If you thought “Air Force One” sounded good on Blu-ray, Sony repeats the aggressive audio track for this film as helicopters, explosions and various sound effects are heard all around you.  The surround channel is utilized heavily during the action sequences of the film as well as a good amount of LFE coming from the subwoofer.  The film just sounds incredible!  Dialogue is clear through the center channel and music and effects sounds great coming from the front channels.

Overall, impressive PQ and AQ with subtitles in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Cliffhanger” comes with the following special features in standard definition, English stereo:

  • movieIQ and BD-Live connects you to access real-time information on the cast, music, trivia and more while watching the movie! – Note: You need a BD-Live (Profile 2.0) Blu-ray player that can connect to the Internet to access movieIQ.
  • Commentary with Director Renny Harlin and Sylvester Stallone – Director Renny Harlin sets up the scenes and shows us what is real and what he wanted to accomplish with certain shots.  Stallone talks about his scenes and how it was hard for him to film because he was scared of heights.
  • Technical Crew Commentary – Commentary on the technical crew of how they accomplished the rock climbing and various action-based sequences of the film and challenges they experienced.
  • A Personal Introduction from Renny Harlin – (4:53) Director Renny Harlin talks about how he got involved with “Cliffhanger” and working with Sylvester Stallone.  Both men wanted to do something than your usual action film.  Something with more depth and more serious in tone.
  • Deleted Scenes – (8:18) Featuring two deleted scenes (Kings Leap, Ice Climb) plus an optional introduction by Director Renny Harlin (3:01) who discusses why the scenes were cut from the movie.
  • Stallone on the Edge: The Making of Cliffhanger – (20:03) Featuring interviews with director Renny Harlan and the talents of the film.  Featuring a behind-the-scenes making of the film, shooting on location in the Italian alps, the challenges that the filmmaker and talents had to endure and a tour through the set from Sylvester Stallone.
  • Special Effects Featurettes – (7:24) Special effects featurettes for “Sarah’s Fall” and “Helicopter Explosion” and commentary and video on how those two sequences were created.
  • Storyboard Comparisons – (12:01) Storyboard comparisons for “Sarah’s Fall”, “Air-to-Zip Line” and “Helicopter Explosion”. Featuring the storyboard sequences on the top and video on the bottom.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer – (3:26) Includes an optional introduction by Renny Harlin.

“Cliffhanger” was definitely one of the enjoyable films that Sylvester Stallone did in the 1990’s (along with “Judge Dredd”).  After the disastrous “Rocky V” in 1990, Stallone started to do more international films throughout the 1990’s and in this case, both he and director Renny Harlin wanted to do something different in their careers and that was to have an action film that was more serious in nature.

Personally, I enjoyed “Cliffhanger” when it came out in theaters but there were certain situations that bugged me at the time and that was mainly Sylvester Stallone in the very cold weather without a jacket, high up in altitude and climbing the mountain with a t-shirt (it’s further explained by Sylvester Stallone in the commentary) but it was one of the scenes that I had a hard time believing especially in freezing temperatures.

But it was definitely an enjoyable Stallone film.  Michael Rooker did a wonderful job in this film and the same with Janine Turner (and I’m glad that director Renny Harlin did not emphasize or use a major romantic sequence between Gabe and Jessie).

But I’m sure the question for fans of the film is if “Cliffhanger” is worth purchasing again?   Especially if you owned the two previous DVD’s that were released in 2000 and the Superbit version in 2004.

If you enjoyed this film, my answer is yes.  The reason being is that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has improved with the picture quality and audio quality of their films.  Especially this 1993 film because in previous years, there was some DNR that made the film look to cloudy/waxy in appearance due to the DNR but with this film, you really can’t tell it’s 1993 when it comes to picture quality.  Video looks absolutely great compared to the original DVD.

You see the details of the rocks quite well but the location of where the film is shot, looks great!  The Italian Alps absolutely looks beautiful in this film and definitely an improvement from the DVD.

But the biggest improvement is the lossless audio.  For those who have a modern receiver that can take advantage of the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack and have a good speaker setup are going to love how this film sounds.  Since “Sony Pictures Home Entertainmen” released “Air Force Once” on Blu-ray, they have really found a way to take advantage of these older action films and “Cliffhanger” sounds remarkable on Blu-ray.  The soundtrack is quite immersive and you hear the audio all around you.

The Blu-ray features the same special features from the original DVD with the exception of the photo gallery but all-in-all, for those who own the previous DVD’s will just love how this film looks and sounds on Blu-ray.

As for those who have never seen the film, “Cliffhanger” is not the best Sylvester Stallone action film but its one, if not the best action film he released in the 1990’s.  Looking for an action film, definitely give “Cliffhanger” a try!

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