WSR Detailed LaserDisc Review

Civil Action, A

Reviewed In Issue 34 Of Widescreen Review® Stars:
John Travolta, Robert Duvall, James Gandolfini, Dan Hedaya, John Lithgow, William H. Macy, Kathleen Quinlan, Tony Shalhoub

WSR Review Scores
Picture Rating: 4
Sound Rating: 4
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Reference Systems
Critics' Composite Score:
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DVD General Information
(Studio/Distributor): Touchstone Home Video
(Catalog Number): 15986AS
(MPAA Rating): PG13
(Retail Price): $39.99
(Running Time In Minutes): 115
(Color Type): Color
(Chaptered/Scene Access): Yes
(Closed Captioned): Yes
(Theatrical Release): 1998
(LD Release Date): 07/99
(THX® Digitally Mastered): No

Credits Information
(Director): Steven Zaillian
(Screenplay/Written By): Steven Zaillian
(Story): NA
(Music): Danny Elfman
(Director Of Photography):
(Production Designer): David Gropman
(Visual Effects): Illusion Arts, Inc.
(Costume Designer): Shay Cunliffe
(Editor): Wayne Wahrman, ACE
(Supervising Sound Editors): Larry Kemp
(Re-Recording Mixers):
(Executive Producers): Steven Zaillian & David Wisnievitz
(Co-Producers): NA
(Producers): Scott Rudin, Robert Redford & Rachel Pfeffer

DVD Picture Information
(Principal Photography): Academy Standard Flat
(Theatrical Aspect Ratio): 1.85:1
(Measured LaserDisc Aspect Ratio): 1.85:1

DVD Sound Information
(DVD Soundtrack): Dolby Digital Surround
(Theatrical Sound): DTS, SDDS & Dolby Digital
(Theatrical Re-Issue Soundtrack):
(Remastered Dolby Digital): No
(Remastered DTS Digital Surround): No
(Additional Languages):

WSR Narrative Review
Story Synopsis:
Based on the book by Jonathan Harr from a true story, A Civil Action stars John Travolta as a cynical personal injury attorney who only takes cases that he thinks he can settle out of court—and receive a large percentage for himself. But the case he’s just accepted turns out to be the one that turns his cynicism into determination as he risks his career and everything he owns in a lengthy battle to fight for the civil rights of his clients who, it appears, have been slowly poisioned by drinking water from two wells that were contaminated with chemical solvents by two large manufacturing plants.

LaserDisc Picture:
The LaserDisc is nicely rendered, with good color fidelity and sharp and detailed images and naturally balanced colors. Noise, however, is apparent throughout. Shadow delineation is superb, with a natural, rich gradation between darkness and total picture black. The LaserDisc is wanting in true depth, but is still quite pleasing. Exterior scenes are beautifully shot and rendered with a crisp, cold late-fall appearance. Only occasional video artifacts are apparent. Both discs measure 1.85:1.

LaserDisc Soundtrack:
The Dolby® Digital discrete 5.1 soundtrack has an annoying bass hum that is unnatural. The matrix PCM LaserDisc soundtrack sounds so much more natural and open for a more effective soundfield presentation. Bass emphasis on the discrete version is further exaggerated with powerful .1 LFE enhancement that booms. Largely, this is a mono-directed soundtrack rich in dialogue, but the discrete’s dialogue sounds muffled due to the constant bass emphasis, while the matrix dialogue sounds natural with good spatial integration. The music score is nicely presented on the matrix version, but is spectrally unbalanced with bass emphasis on the discrete version.
(Surround Bass Below 50Hz): Yes
(Aggressive System Surround): Yes
(Intense 25Hz Bass): No
(Deep Bass Challenging): No
(Aggressive 0.1 LFE):
(Holosonic Soundfield): No
(Aggressive Split Surround): No
(Center Back Surround Imaging): Yes
(Directionalized Dialogue): Yes
Superb Sound Effects Recording Quality:
Superb Music Score Recording Quality:
Superb Special Visual Effects Quality:
Superb Color Fidelity:
Superb Cinematography:
Reference LaserDisc:
Collector Edition: