Spike Lee gets back to form with 25th Hour, a very involving film with real and emotional dialogue. Edward Norton stars as Monty Brogan, an intelligent fellow who is a drug dealer. The film opens with a harsh scene of Monty saving an injured dog, who is rather mean and even bits Monty. Time passes on Monty is seen sitting on a New York park bench with the same dog. A customer comes up looking for a score and is turned down as Monty has been busted. He only has 24 hours left of free time before he must report to prison. The film follows Monty's last day of freedom has he plans his day. He will visit two old friends, his father, and his girlfriend (who he thinks might have tipped off the cops). The whole affair is a very melancholy one, with added weight thanks to it occurring in the recent aftermath of 9/11. Throughout the day Monty examines his life, being caught, and the roles of his friends and family. Things don't come out that pretty in his eyes, but some personal salvation might be down the road.
25th Hour is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. All sorts of visual tricks and filters were employed in this film. If not mastered correctly the DVD could be terrible. It isn't as transfer is very true to the film. Colors range from oversaturated to washed out, all intentional. The high contrast is handled well except at the beginning, during the opening credits, where some artifacting is present. Blacks are strong and naturally shadow detail is good, minus the beginning. Grain is evident in a number of scenes, again intentional, so you can't be annoyed at that. The print used is very clean which is expected for a recent film.
The 25th Hour includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track that isn't very aggressive but does feature some impressive sound design. The rears come to live to boost the score and to provide light, ambient sounds. Such is expected and not uncommon, but there are few scenes where the surround goes a step further and really impresses. One is a big rant scene by Monty and another is when some DJ's scratch records in a nightclub. The film though is mostly dialogue so expect a front heavy mix most of the time. The track features clear dialogue and zero distortion issues. For such a film this is well designed and very appropriate audio track.
Extras are decent on this release. Two audio commentary tracks are included. One is from director Spike Lee while the second features screenwriter/author David Benioff. Both are informative tracks with each man providing some lengthy discussion on various production issues.
Next are 6 deleted scenes. Not much to say about them as they wouldn't have added much to the film if left in.
Finishing out the disc are two featurettes. Spike Lee: Evolution of an American Filmmaker runs 22 minutes and is made up of interviews, film clips, and some behind the scenes footage. The interviews are the best part as notable people such as Denzel Washington, Ossie Davis, Martin Scorsese, and even Halle Berry are included. Not too much depth can be covered in such a short run time but the overview presented in it makes for an enjoyable viewing. The second feature is a montage of footage shot at Ground Zero. The images are of the cleanup, with score provided by Terrance Blanchard, who handled the film's score as well. It is both haunting and striking.
Many have labeled 25th Hour Spike Lee's best film in 10 years. I am not so sure about that one but the film is good and more memorable than some of the director's more recent product. The film is a very emotional ride so be prepared. The DVD offers fine video and audio to go along with some worthwhile supplements. Three for three, that's a winner in my book.