The Truman Show

The Truman Show (1998)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Jim Carrey, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Natasha McElhone
Extras: Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Photo Gallery, Trailers and TV Spots

Peter Weir's film about a young man who's life is highly publicized and dissected before the eyes of a huge TV audience had been the box-office sensation of 1998 and gave rise to what we now call "Reality Television." Little did we know back then that in only a few years time TV networks would flood us with reality shows ranging from the pointless, the stupid to the inane and obnoxious. Everyone can become a TV star in these days where even the lowest filth of our society gets prime time exposure and accordingly parents are grooming their children to be the next reality TV sensations.

Regardless of how it all shaped up however, when the film was first released, the concept of a reality show that puts the camera on people's everyday exploits seemed incredibly far-fetched – and interesting. Although the film gathered a good deal of initial attention through it's main star Jim Carrey, no one was able to foresee what impact this film would have on the movie-going audiences and how dearly Carrey's character of Truman Burbank would eventually grow on them. "The Truman Show" is a remarkable film because it was a response to the paparazzi mentality, another excess that our society seems to salivate over. It is a masterfully told story about how mass media have desensitized audiences over the past years, and shows how ruthlessly these media deal with people's privacy. Never are they shying back from perversely intruding into personal matters, breaking taboos and ethic restrictions, only for the fast buck and higher ratings. The film also shows that much of what we take for granted could turn out to be completely fabricated because sometimes we simply do not have real, tangible evidence for things we learn. On top of all that, the movie is also quite remarkable because for the first time it presents us master comedian Jim Carrey in a very dimensional and, most importantly, highly dramatic role that finally gives the actor the chance to put the wide variety of his skills on display. For the first time in this film Carrey was not doing his rubberface schtick and turned instead to drama, creating a very vulnerable and personal character.

Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) is a young man in the quaint community of Seahaven, a little island, leading a regular life as an insurance salesman with his wife Meryl (Laura Linney). What he doesn't know is that all the world is actually watching his life. Unknowingly, Truman is at the center of a huge TV show that started with his birth. Ever since that day "The Truman Show" has become the most successful TV show on the planet, airing in all countries around the globe. His entire life is a travesty, a conglomerate of actors pretending to be relatives, friends and partners. Even his wife is a paid actress on her daily job. His entire world is in fact a giant soundstage with meticulously choreographed events that make up the life as he knows it. Occasionally strange things happen, like huge stage lights that seemingly fall from the sky or people trying to tell him that he is being observed, but caught in his own, whimsical world, Truman never really fathoms out their meanings. One day however, on his way to work, he can overhear a conversation on the radio that clearly indicates that someone is watching his every step, reporting everything he does over the air. Suspicious, he tries to find out more and eventually decides that in fact, people are observing him, somehow directing his life. He wants to break free and tries to leave the little island, but every attempt results in a failure.
Then, one night he decides to set sail by himself to discover the truth of his existence and to meet his maker.

"The Truman Show" is a remarkable film that was way ahead of its time. Not only was the story inventive and quite innovative, but the way it is told is also exceedingly well done. The film has just the right pace. The acting is a good notch above average throughout, and the thought of having a virtual world for a worldwide TV audience's sake is daring, mesmerizing and dazzling at the same time. In a world where much of what we take for gospel comes from media and not necessarily our own experience any more, aren't we all prone to be fooled at one point or another? Is what we consider "reality" truly real or is it fabricated like the world Truman is living in? What evidence do we really have for our existence and for the reality as we know it? It becomes blatantly obvious when watching Peter Weir's film that our entire perception of reality and our world is extremely volatile, and that many influences, mostly media, are capable of beguiling us a truth that has simply no substance. Watching and pondering the film makes you wonder if by any chance you could be part of such a conspiracy, if maybe you are actually the center of some bigger scheme designed to entertain audiences?

The film also nicely deals with the unscrupulous, yet sympathetic, director of it all, Christof, perfectly portrayed by Ed Harris. While following his business interests he pulls the threads and plays with Truman's fate like an oversized puppeteer.
Nevertheless he never loses his affection and personal relationship to Truman as he watches him struggle to find his place in life. His life is "The Truman Show", but he has to realize that no matter how well you produce a show, it ultimately remains a set-up and is as such prone to unforeseeable events which eventually cause failure.

Paramount Home Video has now released "The Truman Show" on Blu-Ray Disc, offering up the movie in glorious 1080p high definition. The transfer restores the film's original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio and is wonderful to behold, free of blemishes or defects. Sharp and with incredibly good level of detail, the transfer stands out as you watch with remarkable richness and texture, as colors and contrast render a perfect image.

A Dolby Digital 5.1 TrueHD audio track makes up the audio side of the release, which is also giving viewers the chance to experience the film the way it was originally envisioned by the filmmakers. With a wide frequency response that also offers a surprisingly deep low end, and active surrounds, the track will surprise you as it is more active than most regular comedies and dramas would by using plenty of ambient sounds and effects to create a wide and bustling sound field. The resulting atmosphere nicely shows how surround sound can also be put to effective use in rather subtle ways to enhance a film's sonic presentation. The music themes used throughout the film are very well composed and arranged, and especially the motif used when Truman is starting to discover the truth is perfectly building the atmosphere, emphasizing his growing distress without sounding harsh, dark or ominous at all.

Essentially replicating the Special Edition DVD that was released in 2005, this Blu-Ray version contains all the extas from that release, such as the two-part Making-Of Featurette "How Is It Going To End?" and the featurette "Faux Finishing," which covers the special effects of the movie.

Also included are the four deleted scenes and the photo gallery. The release closes with TV spots and trailers.

"The Truman Show" was a film that was full of surprises when it first hit theaters in 1998. Today, the premise of the film may not be nearly as far-fetched as it was then, and we have seen more elaborate set-ups in reality shows flickering across America. Still, the film was one of my favorites of the year for a reason, because nothing can replace proper plotting, a great story, a wonderful cast and smarts – and "The Truman show" is full of it. Time to upgrade, I'd say, and get this beauty in high definition.