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Widely regarded as an outstanding tale about the triumph of women over tyrannical men, Thelma & Louise deserves much more admiration from the mainstream movie-going public. It is often misconstrued as an outright feminist flick where the injustices of the real world in terms of gender issues are made right in this femme-buddy coming-of-age story. But it’s really more than that, something which people don’t give it credit for. The film is really a chance to tell the tale of two gal-pals whose planned weekend away goes a little bit haywire, and tell it well enough to raise a few talking points. Director Ridley Scott is a surprising choice as director but he shows his future worth by handling this film quite well. But how does the DVD stack up overall?

Thelma (Geena Davis) is a housewife who is sick and tired of her abusive husband. Louise (Susan Sarandon) is also in a relationship she’s not entirely happy with, so both decide to try and get away from it all for a while. But things are turned well and truly on their head when a stranger in a bar tries to have his way with Thelma and Louise comes in to give her a hand in dealing with him. Problem is Louise decides to shoot the bloke, triggering off a series of unforeseen events for the both of them. Little do they know, however, that they really will enjoy what comes next.

You're in trouble, mister

After this ugly incident the film turns into a bit of a road movie as the pair begin to run from the police and live very dangerously indeed. They meet a guy named JD (Brad Pitt), deal with a few men rather ruthlessly and commit a robbery, all the while enjoying themselves in the process. The men, contrary to popular belief, aren’t portrayed as derogatorily as one may think, instead merely being characters that will show the audience how these two women can do much more than they are given credit for, kind of like the feminist view of society in the real world. Harvey Keitel’s police officer Hal Slocumb is given more of a compassionate edge than would normally be the case so that the film doesn’t just turn into 129 minutes of male-bashing, which is a wise move because his character works almost as well as the two leads.

Not surprisingly both Davis and Sarandon were nominated for Academy Awards, because both are brilliant in their respective roles. They never try to over-emphasise the role-reversal that sits well as the film’s major undercurrent, nor do they let their acting get in the way of a script which fully enables them to show the true emotions of their characters. In other words, both show a great deal amount of poise and restraint perfect for these types of roles, that is as much a credit to the two lead actresses as the script and Ridley Scott’s direction. The support cast is brilliant also, with Keitel and Brad Pitt (in an eye-catching role that undoubtedly helped him to the A-list status he holds now) the obvious standouts.

The women’s liberation groups around the film’s initial release were in raptures over a movie that basically encouraged the female gender to take risks, stand up for themselves and set their goals as high as they can. And they were justified too. But what all the hype and discussion probably overshadowed was the fact that the film isn’t so much a dig at men, rather a boost for women. Whichever way you look at it, Thelma & Louise certainly won’t disappoint.

Bad hair day...

The MGM re-release of this film has brought with it a decent transfer, even though it’s not without its flaws. Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1, the main drawback of the visuals is the abundance of shimmering during the opening few sequences. Some have labelled the problem on this disc close to unwatchable but it is really not that big a distraction. Granted, you don’t usually see shimmering of this magnitude in DVD releases nowadays but the film is relatively middle-aged by modern comparisons. If you can get past this shaky start then the rest of the transfer looks quite good. The landscape of America’s south-west looks very impressive on this disc, as do the numerous interior scenes that maintain their colour and depth even though a few are a little bit on the dark side at times. Sharpness is well above average and there aren’t any distracting film artefacts to be seen, so it’s only the shimmering problem that drags this transfer down a little.

The disc comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and generally sounds quite good. All of the action scenes have been exploited for their surround-sound potential, so you’ll get a bit of a workout from your rears and subwoofer during these times. For the more dialogue-driven parts of the film the action stays well and truly in the front but dialogue is always clear throughout. Composer Hans Zimmer (who has gone on to score films such as Mission: Impossible 2 and Gladiator) has given us a decent musical soundtrack underneath the action, which sounds very impressive on this disc. A great-sounding audio mix overall.

"Say Oscar..."

MGM have put together a great package of extras for their second attempt with this movie, with the best of the original material retained and some great additions beefing the supplements up quite a bit. The 2 audio commentaries are great to listen to, with the first being from Director Ridley Scott himself. He is very technical and analytical (which comes as no surprise) but on the whole he has some very interesting things to say about the themes, characters and actors on the film. He even briefly mentions Bladerunner, which is a little bit of a bonus I suppose. The second track is with Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon and screenwriter Callie Khouri. All three women enjoy themselves and seem to like recalling various details about the production. The only gripe I have with this track is that they are all given their own front speaker, with Khouri on the left, Davis in the middle and Sarandon on the right. This can get a little bit distracting at times but the content is very entertaining indeed.

The best feature on the disc is a one-hour documentary entitled ‘The Last Journey’ which includes interviews with all the key players on the film, most of which have some really interesting stories to tell, particularly Brad Pitt. It covers every detail on the production, from casting to the reactions of the audience. This is what a real documentary should be like and is great to watch even if you’re not a die-hard fan of the film.

Also included on the disc are eight deleted scenes which add a little to the story and characters but were obviously not quite right for the final cut. They look quite good for cut material so each of them is well worth a look even if we don’t get a commentary from the director. There’s also an alternate ending which, despite looking quite old and damaged in parts, is very interesting to watch. It is more of a thematic change rather than anything really different to the original, and Scott’s commentary explains it all very well. Worth a look.

The definitive moment in the film

The rest of the supplements are small but welcome in rounding off the collection. There’s a multi-angle storyboard sequence detailing the film’s finale in pictures, the original EPK featurette, a home video preview which was intended to promote the film to the home market, the music video to “Part Of Me, Part Of You”, trailers & TV spots and a photo gallery. These all finish of what is a very impressive list of extras that cover the whole production extremely well.

You most certainly don’t have to be female to enjoy this film. Liberating and encouraging for women it might be, but the main reason this flick works is because it is such an interesting tale with great characters and some very talented leads to play them. Davis and Sarandon make this flick great, coupled with Scott’s competent direction and some great writing to boot. This Special Edition DVD includes a video transfer marred only by a problem during the first few scenes, a decent audio track and a damn fine extras package, making this the perfect disc for fans of the film and a worthy addition to any collection.