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The Truman Show (1998)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/30/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/21/2008

While there are many people who claim the ability to see the future, we've been getting accurate prognostication from the movies for decades. While those low-budget 50s sci-fi movies may have featured some way-out ideas, like flying cars, many of them came true. (Unfortunately, the flying car wasn't one of them.) More recently, films dealing with high tech subjects such as surveillance or genetics have found their counterparts in real life. But, the most prophetic film in the past decade has to be The Truman Show. The movie brought us the seemingly outlandish idea of reality television just two years before Survivor changed the face of entertainment forever.

The Truman Show is about a television show which features the life of one Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey). The show is on 24-hours a day, 7 days a week and has followed Truman through his entire life. The odd thing is that Truman has no idea that he's on TV, or that he's living in an artificial world. The entire show is produced in an man-made island town, and due to the fact that Truman is deathly afraid of water (because of a traumatic incident in his childhood), he never tries to leave. So, Truman spends his days working in an insurance agency, and his free time with his wife, Meryl (Laura Linney), or his best friend, Marlon (Noah Emmerich). The events watched over by show creator Christof (Ed Harris), who adds elements to the show to make Truman's life interesting.

But, all is not well in Truman's world. Due to a one-time encounter with an extra (Natascha McElhone), Truman has often thought of living his tranquil life. This increased wanderlust coincides with some bizarre events which make Truman wonder what's going on around him. As these events escalate, Truman becomes convinced that he's being watched and decides that leaving the town of Seahaven is the only answer.

Watching The Truman Show only 10 years after its initial release, it's amazing to see just how ahead of its time that it was. When the film premiered, the idea of watching a TV show featuring real people seemed ludicrous and the idea that it would become a worldwide phenomenon bordered on paranoid science fiction. Yet, here we are, several Survivor's and American Idol's later, and the notion of a obsession-inducing reality show doesn't seem far-fetched at all. Despite the fact that Truman is being filmed in secret and is essentially a prisoner, the good-natured tone of the show seems angelic compared to insane programs such as Fear Factor. It's not unusual for something imagined in a fiction film of the past to be true today, but rarely has a film become so true as quickly as The Truman Show.

The show's prophetic qualities are only one aspect of a film that impresses on nearly every front. The creative script by writer Andrew Niccol was punched up by director Peter Weir, creating a nearly seamless story and a perfect blend of comedic aspects coupled with mounting tension and drama. Being a Jim Carrey film, there are some funny moments in the movie, but the story really focuses on a man who is living a lie and slowly beginning to realize that. Instead of filming this as a movie about a TV show, Weir made the ingenious decision to shoot the bulk of The Truman Show as the TV show, so we get many odd camera angles as the thousands of tiny cameras which surround Truman capture his every move. The film's production design is also impressive, as the town of Seahaven (which is a real city in Florida) is dazzles us with its unabashed pastel colors and perfectly designed houses.

While all of these attributes help make The Truman Show great, the most outstanding piece to consider is the performance of Jim Carrey. This was the funny man's first foray in a starring dramatic role and he pulls it off quite well. Truman is a charming and naturally likable guy, so Carrey's wit works there, but when Truman is brooding or angry, Carrey is able to make those parts of the film just as believable. Laura Linney matches Carrey every step of the way as an actress playing the all-encompassing role of a wife to a man who doesn't know that he's on TV. Noah Emmerich gives the best performance of his career as Marlon, the friend who's job it is to keep Truman happy and to match his mood. The always impressive Ed Harris is great as Christof, a seemingly nice man who is consumed by his desire to keep the show alive.

The Truman Show is a truly unique film in that it combines many genres -- comedy, drama, science-fiction -- and remains a satisfying cohesive film. The only problem that I have with the movie is that it left me wanting more, as I wanted to learn what went on behind-the-scenes at the show. The Truman Show is just as entertaining today as it was upon its release, but given the rise of reality TV, it feels like a much more important movie.

The Truman Show invents the reality show on
Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 36 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain and looking very crisp. The colors are bold and beautiful, as the film's pastels really come to life here. The image is nicely detailed and shows great depth. The problem with this transfer is that the clarity of the HD image brings out every speck and blemish from the source print. Is this the cleanest print which they could find? The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.6 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good here, and we can hear every small sound happening around Truman. Glass' music is treated to great reproduction. The surround and subwoofer effects are very good as well. The various rain and storm scenes in the film sound great, as the audio swells around us. A very nice presentation for this important film.

The Blu-ray Disc We start with a 2-part documentary entitled "How's It Going to End? The Making of The Truman Show". Part 1 (18 minutes), deals with the origins of the script and how Weir and his crew molded it into the film we have today. The segment also examines most of the key characters. It includes many comments from Weir, as well as some quotes from Linney, Emmerich and Harris. Unfortunately, Jim Carrey appears only in old press junket footage. Part 2 (23 minutes) explores the actual making of the film, as it gives insight into how the location was found and enhanced and the creative ways in which the film was shot. This part also looks as the Christof character. "Faux Finishing, the Visual Effects of The Truman Show" (13 minutes) features visuals effects supervisors Craig Barron and Michael McAlister who discuss the subtle way in which digital effects and matte paintings were used to enhanced Truman's world. The Disc contains four deleted scenes which comprise 13 minutes of footage. Here we get more product placement footage, a nice scene in which Truman gets another clue as to what is happening, and a great cast meeting. The extras are rounded out by a Photo Gallery, the Teaser Trailer, the Theatrical Trailer, and two TV spots.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long