Out Of Sight

Out Of Sight (1998)
Universal Home Video
Cast: George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames
Extras: Commentary Track, Documentary, Deleted Scenes, Cast & Crew Biographies, Theatrical Trailer

"Out Of Sight" is an engaging film that nicely blends various elements from different genres like thrillers, dramas and romances, and as a result creates an appealing mix of emotions, visuals and plenty of tension. The film explores a feeling we all know. We see someone on the street, make eye contact for only a split second, and immediately know there is a connection with this other person. But sadly, we never have the chance to expand this relationship beyond this fleeting moment of eye contact. "Out Of Sight" takes this scenario and explores it in an interesting manner by having two people collide this way with backgrounds that could not be any more contrary. An escaped convict and a Federal Marshal meet and make brief contact. Each is getting a glimpse into the other’s life, soul and heart. Clearly, this setup contains enough dramatic elements for a great film already, but director Steven Soderbergh decided to add quite a few more twists to this film, turning it into a great, enjoyable movie that has now been released on DVD by Universal Home Video.

Jack Foley (George Clooney) is the most successful bank robber in the country but sadly, his impulsiveness causes more trouble than good sometimes. Although his robberies are extremely clever in their execution, oftentimes he gets tangled somehow and eventually ends in prison. This time he is preparing an escape from a Florida medium security prison where he is serving a 30-odd years sentence. During his escape, he runs right into the arms of Federal Marshal Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez), who had incidentally parked her car close to where Jack surfaced his tunnel. Without much of a thought, he grabs the heavily armed girl, throws her and himself in the trunk of her car, while his accomplice Buddy (Ving Rhames) takes them into safety. Locked up together in the back of the car, Jack and Karen start talking to each other and within minutes a fatal attraction builds. While Jack is surprised about the ease at which they converse and her fearlessness, Karen is soon taken by Jack’s thoughtfulness and his charismatic intellect. Soon separated again, their thoughts are with the other, and they both start to wonder, what their lives would be like if they had met under different circumstances.

"Out Of Sight" features a rather low key cast for Hollywood standards, if you ignore the short cameo appearances by the original Batman star Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson. Nevertheless, the film’s stars manage to create believable, dimensional characters that have clear motives that propel them through the story. The more I get to see George Clooney of TV series "ER" fame in feature motion pictures, the more I get to like him. In all his roles he displays a wide range of acting skills and his rather soft-spoken nature gives all his characters an almost intellectual note. A clear sense of superiority and roguish deliberation. His portrayal of Jack Foley is once again a testimony to Clooney’s excellent judgment when playing out his characters. His undeniable charm and warm hearted manner as well as the concise, witty delivery of his lines is truly a pleasure to watch.

Also absolutely convincing is Jennifer Lopez in her part as the head strong Federal Marshal Karen Sisco. Casting the part of Karen must have been quite a challenge as the characters asks for a very resolute, strong woman on one hand that is very attractive and sexy as well on the other. Lopez manages to take on the role of Karen Cisco with an ease and believability that is quite surprising, considering her rather short history as an actress. Dennis Farina, Ving Rhames and Don Cheadle round up the cast of the film with solid performances that help make this film stand out in the crowd. Each of the characters they portray has a very strong identity and each of them manages to connect with the viewer early on in the film. Especially in the case of "Out Of Sight", this is not an easy task, as the film is not told in a traditional linear narrative. The film uses a large number of flashbacks and stylistic toys to tell an extensive backstory that led to the film’s main events. It would have been easy and most probably boring to tell the story linearly from the start to the end, but director Steven Soderbergh’s inventiveness and his intuitive feel for the film’s pacing created an exciting ride through time and events. He establishes his characters early on in the film, purposely neglecting chronological order, and thus makes sure the viewer is completely familiar with these characters and their incentives when the film finally takes off for the third act and the final showdown.

Soderbergh and his screenwriter Scott Frank also avoids to simply paint his characters either black or white. Every character encountered in this film exhibits all shades of gray. Even an implicitly good person like the lawful Karen detects unknown sides within herself. She learns that nothing in life is pure black or pure white, and so does everyone else in this film. The cleverly written dialogue between Dennis Farina and Michael Keaton are a perfect example for this exploration of gradients in "badness" and a highlight of the film. Keaton, by the way, is once again playing the character of FBI task force agent Ray Nicolet – a part he had played in Quentin Tarantino’s "Jackie Brown" already.

"Out Of Sight" comes as a Collector’s Edition from Universal Home Video. The disc contains the film’s original 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> version in an <$16x9,anamorphic> transfer. The image quality is superb as expected and absolutely flawless, exhibiting a vast number of details under all lighting conditions. Color reproduction is perfect without noise or bleeding bringing out the best of the film’s cinematography. Director Soderbergh and his photographer, Elliot Davis, have created a visually appealing, organic world with sometimes flashy, sometimes somber color schemes that are always subtly and unobtrusively integrated in the images. The photography creates a vivid ambiance for the plot and is just as real as the events and the characterizations. It is a pleasure to see the efforts put into the images nicely reproduced on this disc with absolutely natural and faithfully rendered colors.

The disc contains a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack that is lively, rich and active. The film’s musical score nicely captures the romantic elements, as well as the film’s colder, more urban settings. Nicely composed and orchestrated by David Holmes, the soundtrack greatly enhances the film’s overall impression with good and well placed cues. "Out Of Sight" comes in English and also contains French and Spanish audio tracks in <$DS,Dolby Surround>. English captions are supplied on the disc as well and subtitles in Spanish are selectable from the disc’s menu. Apart from the regular audio tracks, the disc also features a full length <$commentary,commentary track> with director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Frank.

One could easily consider "Out Of Sight" a sleeper hit. It is a great film that barely gets the public recognition it deserves. Fortunately, Universal has noticed this movie’s caliber and gave the film their outstanding special edition treatment. The film gradually and continually builds tension until the final showdown is reached, which is exemplary in its intensity when it openly displays the conflict, and forces an immediate resolution. I watched the film completely uninhibited and unprepared, and I am glad I did. It is a fascinating exploration that will make you think about the values in your own life and how quickly these values can be taxed, stressed and even broken under certain circumstances. Although highly dramatic in nature, the film also contains some great thriller elements that make for a highly entertaining mixture. "Out Of Sight" is a clever film that is highly recommended.