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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

The Greatest Game Ever Played [Blu-ray]


(Bill Paxton, 2005)




Re-issued on March 29th, 2011:


Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Fairway Films/Walt Disney Pictures

Video: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment



Region: ALL (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:00:32.642

Disc Size: 45,192,939,696 bytes

Feature Size: 37,063,784,448 bytes

Video Bitrate: 30.89 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: June 16th, 2009



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video






DTS-HD Master Audio English 3661 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3661 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio French 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Thai 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Chinese 320 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 320 kbps / Dolby Surround
Dolby Digital Audio Portuguese 320 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 320 kbps / Dolby Surround



English (SDH), Chinese (Traditional and simplified), French, Indonesian, Malay, Portuguese, Thai, none



• Audio Commentary with Director Bill Paxton

• Audio Commentary with Author, Screenwriter & Producer Mark Frost

• A View from the Gallery: On the Set (15:22)

• Two Legends & The Greatest Game (6:51)

• From Caddie to Champion: Francis Ouimet (25:18)


Product Description
The Game is on Blu-ray disc: Now you can experience Walt Disney Pictures crowd-pleasing underdog epic in the stunning clarity and up-close-and-personal magic of high definition. Shia LaBeouf (Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, Transformers) stars as amateur golfer Francis Ouimet. Armed with nothing but talent, the working-class youth has a seemingly impossible dream: to compete against the world s greatest player, his idol Harry Vardon. Soon, with the help of his spunky, 10-year-old caddy Eddie, Francis boldly breaks down all barriers with a thrilling display of unrivaled drive, skill and heart and challenges the golf pro for the U.S. Open Championship! You ll feel the breathless anticipation of the crowd and practically smell the grass on the green as you immerse yourself in the action. Based on an inspirational true story, The Greatest Game Ever Played is an adventure in courage that will entertain your whole family as never before in Blu-ray high definition.




The Movie: 7

There's something simultaneously enticing and off-putting about the title, don't you think?  And then to learn that the sport is golf, and that the game of the title is one I've never even heard of – well, that . . . actually sparked my interest.  You see, a couple years ago I was visiting my cousin in Los Angeles, where his father was guesting for the summer.   During the extended weekend, my cousin's new HDTV was on every waking hour, tuned to the U.S. Open.  I had always known of my uncle's interest in golf.  I even remember what it was like to discover his set of clubs in his mother's cellar in the 1940s.  So there was nothing else for it but learn something of the game.


Mark Frost's book is about golf as it was in the early 20th century and, in some ways, continued to be until Tiger Woods and beyond.  Originally developed in Scotland, golf was played seriously only by "gentlemen."  The Clubs associated with private courses that came into being accepted only bluebloods.  Working class folk need not apply – neither to a club, which was a foregone conclusion, nor to the game, except on public courses.  They could caddy or work in the clubhouse, but were not allowed to play on the course, not even for fun.  When the game was exported to America, all of its rules about class and propriety came with it.


Enter Francis Ouimet, born and raised right alongside a golf course in Boston by an earnest working class father and a mother considerably more flexible.  Golf always held a special fascination for Francis, but it was not until he got a short lesson in the art by none other than the great British golfer, Harry Varden, who had recently won the U.S. Open, that his fancy turned into obsession.  His father put up with Francis' silliness, even through his teenage years as a caddy, until one day a couple of "gentlemen" from the club, who knew of his successes at high school, urged him to compete at a tournament on their course.  You're joking, of course, is the gist of Francis' response.  His father was more adamant.  "These are not your people."  They'll use you up and spit you out.  He was speaking from experience as a laborer, but he saw no reason why the sun and the moon should change places for his son, even he was good at the game.


Struggle and disappointment follow, but eventually Francis finds himself competing at the 1913 U.S. Open as an amateur – his father is quick to point out that even if he wins, he doesn't get any money for his trouble.  Among the players is Harry Varden, who is still in top form – almost.




The movie spends half of its running time following that match over its several days of play, and it gives the question of class no less its due.  In fact, Varden himself was the victim of the rules that prohibited him from belonging to the association that would exploit his fame because of his family status. While Director Paxton spends less time with Varden, played with consummate sensitivity by Stephen Dillane (John Adams, The Hours, Spy Game), his story is made clear enough that we do not see him as anything remotely like a villain or the enemy, even as he faces Ouimet (pronounced "we met") in the final round.  Which brings us to Shia LaBouef (that's "Shy-ya") who, at 19, was for five years already an award-winning veteran of television (in the Disney channel series Evan Stevens).  He also had made a promising showing in the charming and exuberant 2003 movie Holes.  Since The Greatest Game we've seen Shia in Transformers, both times, but I think it is as Francis Ouimet that he really shows what he's got: loyalty, humor, pathos, desperation, disappointment, and just enough of a swing (what we see of it) that those of us who don't play the game do not doubt him in the role.


As for Bill Paxton's direction, while I can't say much for his choice of effects supervisor and technicians (are we in a movie or a cartoon here, guys?) but I felt the decision to stay focused on the players and their reactions rather than the flight of the ball – except when he didn't – the wise one.  I also thought the way he realized Varden's internal process as he approached the ball, inspired.  Paxton also rightly soft-pedals the possibility of romance, since the love affair here is with the game, not the girl.  Francis' mother's startled reaction every time she hears applause from across the street is priceless.


In his way, Francis Ouimet did for golf what Seabiscuit would later do for horse racing – he gave Americans a hero they could identify with.  The point is not lost in the movie.  Read more about this period HERE.


Image: 7/8  NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.  The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Compared to the well-defined images behind the opening credits, the bulk of the feature film is much less so.  There is a fuzz that we know from other attempts at a historical or dreamlike recollection that in this case almost sinks the movie before it starts the (Check out the sun's light at the horizon over the sea in the opening scene in Jersey, England: it's to die of.)  The occasional edge enhancement proves that what we see here is not entirely what we saw in the theater.  But for the majority of the movie, the green and gold hued color is rich and saturated; sharp, if not highly resolved; high in contrast.














Audio & Music : 6/6

Dialogue is clear enough and the whack of the club against the ball is conveyed sharply.  Crowd noises are given some ambiance, but there is a persistent disconnect of these and other events that rarely sorts itself out.  I was particularly disturbed by the orchestras (small and large) playing at the club parties: they sounded like recordings instead of live music and never as they would have seemed to those in attendance.  At other points, the level and relative size of voices on the course are incorrect.  Brian Tyler's score is altogether too reminiscent of Randy Newman's The Natural (oft-imitated, rarely met or exceeded) that it unintentionally made the proceedings more mundane than they otherwise would have been.


Operations : 7

Not much to say here, except that if I hear Disney's "We have our heading. Here we go.  From the magic within our hearts. . . " one more time – I'll scream.  I always have my finger poised on the Top Menu button on the remote for a quick escape.  Thanks for that.  It was not always thus.




Extras : 6

Perhaps it's just that I'm oversaturated with these things lately that Paxton's commentary, being largely about matters of production (That putt across the floor or that smoke ring is not a special effect.  He got it on the third take) is the less interesting.  And perhaps it's that I know so little about golf that I found Mark Frost's commentary so riveting: especially during the match. It was like listening to a well-annotated sports announcer.  All of the bonus features are in 4;3 standard definition and, except for the understandably vague black & white image of the vintage footage - "From Caddie to Champion" which is by far the most interesting - it's of good quality.



Recommendation : 7

To my surprise, once the clichés of the first reel or two were left behind, I found myself absorbed in the suspense of the game even though I knew its outcome. The high definition image is hit and miss; the audio less good. All the same the draw of the movie, the story and performances earns this release a Birdie.

Leonard Norwitz
June 20th, 2009



Re-issued on March 29th, 2011:


About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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