Prison Break: Season Three (US - DVD R1)
Gabe would like the convicts of America to know that he's a good getaway driver
Prison Break is one of those shows I think I may have enjoyed more if I’d seen it from the beginning. I was simply too busy with other review material to catch up on two previous seasons, but without them I’m a little lost, not to mention thoroughly un-hooked on the show’s tough guy soap opera plotline. Perhaps with additional knowledge I could have appreciated some kind of character intricacies or ironies. However, what little I was able to glean from the previous seasons informs me that season three was thematically almost identical to seasons one and two. Repetition is not something I usually enjoy in a television series.
So ignoring the fact that these characters I don’t really know seem to have found themselves in the same problem they found themselves in last time, I’m left with a series I still find kind of dull. My problem, other then generally not understanding the characters, is that I watch a lot of Oz, and Oz is a pretty hardcore show. Prison Break does sport a hard edge, and the physical threat of the prison itself is palpable enough, but it’s still a network show. Even if the FCC boundaries are pushed, they’re still enforced. The beauty of HBO is that it has no limits on its content. I wouldn’t necessarily call Oz that much more realistic then Prison Break, because both shows are pretty stylish, and pretty soapy, but the unpredictability and general brutality of Oz makes for a more intense viewing.
I’m also a little disappointed by the intricacies and mechanics of the season’s central prison escape (or escapes). I don’t know what I was expecting, and I don’t know what the show’s writers could’ve done after years of heist flicks, but the whole plan seemed a bit vanilla. Fortunately, despite the title, the show isn’t really about the prison break, it’s about the obstacles that block the prison break. This is a show about suspense. The plot moves to create suspense, the character motivations are compelled by suspense, and every commercial break ends with a cliff hanger. From this standpoint I’d count Prison Break as a success. It’s not exactly classic television, or even particularly good television, but it works on a visceral entertainment level. The unfortunate flip side is that the drama is often lost amongst all this suspense, and the humour is nowhere to be found.
The acting is pretty hammy, but it fits the series. More or less all the characters talk in a Clint Eastwood-esque guttural whisper more or less all the time, especially lead Wentworth Miller, who apparently can’t break two decibels. Dominic Purcell gets a few meaty emotional scenes, and Jodi Lyn O’Keefe is a fun bad guy, but unsurprisingly it’s the always awesome William Fichtner as apparently schizophrenic Alex Mahone that steals the entire show every time he’s on screen. If only we could give him his own show.
Prison Break airs in HD, and it’s too bad that I didn't receive this seasonal collection on Blu-ray, because the show looks fantastic. This isn’t the sharpest standard definition TV collection I’ve ever seen (I think that would be CSI), but it’s easily comparable to many of the better DVD collections, and a damn sight better than either of the last two TV on DVD sets I reviewed ( Dexter and Crossing Jordon). The anamorphically enhanced widescreen frame is bursting with bright Panamanian colours. These vibrant hues are mostly solid, and clear of compression or blocking. Details like the sweaty brows, unkempt beards, and dirt caked cell walls are just about as sharp as a DVD will allow, though the sharpening does result in a little bit of edge enhancement. The film grain is a bit on the fuzzy side, and there are some minor blemishes throughout the series. Missing out on the Blu-ray collection is a bummer, but this standard edition disc is really only a small step down.
This Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack isn’t going to blow your mind, but it is going to effectively immerse you in the percussion heavy world of Prison Break. The shows score is pretty simple and a little silly at times, but it sounds great on the track. The drums roll all over the channels, and throb nicely in the LFE. The rest of the noise is mostly made up of chatting tough guys, who even at their lowest whisper can be clearly understood, and the echoes of noisy inmates. The latter episodes, when the inmates finally get out of the prison, are livelier, with noisy car chases and even more intense tribal drumming. It’s not an overtly aggressive track, but it should please fans. I have to say that the Spanish versions of classic American rock songs on the soundtrack is an enjoyable touch.
The extras start with ‘Season 3: Orientacion’, a sixteen minute series of interview segments with all the major actors, starting mostly with the new folks and moving up the ‘importance’ ladder. After everyone’s described their characters and motivations, they start praising the rest of the crew, including the set builders, art directors, and each other.
‘Break Out Episode’ is a thirteen minute general behind the scenes look at the second to last episode of the season. On set interviews with the director, DP, actors and other crew members are mixed with raw on-set footage to create a generally informative, but not particularly interesting. Mostly the interviewees are just describing what happened in the episode.
‘Director’s Takes’ are a series of short featurettes covering the behind the scenes of each episode from each director’s point of view, though the actors and crew are also asked plenty of questions. Each director sets up the thrust of the scene for which we’re about to watch, and then briefly runs us through some of the stuff that went into the production. These mini-featurettes seem to have been made for web use, and all thirteen run a total of almost forty minutes. These are followed by ‘Between Takes’, which are a series of featurettes about what happens on set when the camera isn’t rolling. All eight run a total of about ten minutes.
Everything is wrapped up with a series of Fox TV trailers and an episode of The Unit: Force Majeure. Out of any sort of context this episode really means nothing, and the show appears generally generic, but it does sound really good in 5.1.
Prison Break isn’t really the show for me, but it exhibits enough solid acting and story telling, along with some stylish imagery. I can see why it’s popular. Fans may want to get their hands on the Blu-ray set, but those that still haven’t gone over to the new format should be satisfied with the solid A/V of this collection. The extras are a little lame though.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 12th August 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Surround Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Extras: ‘Season 3: Orientacion’, ‘Break Out Episode’, ‘Director’s Takes’, ‘Between Takes’
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, William Fichtner
Genre: Action and Adventure
Length: 568 minutes
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