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Fox Home Entertainment presents
A Glimpse of Hell (2001)

"Battleships are always the tip of the sword."
- Lt. Dan Meyer (Robert Sean Leonard)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: February 13, 2002

Stars: James Caan, Robert Sean Leonard
Other Stars: Daniel Roebuck, Jamie Harrold, John Doman
Director: Mikael Saloman

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, language, thematic elements
Run Time: 01h:25m:32s
Release Date: February 26, 2002
UPC: 024543034766
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- CB+B B-

DVD Review

Lately I have championed the skill of made-for-television movies as being, at times, better than their big screen counterparts. Films like Wit, Uprising, and Dinner with Friends stand miles above the quality that is routinely churned out for mass audiences, and luckily each is without a single moment of gross-out humor. So it is easy to say that I often enjoy the ways made-for-television pictures seem to push the boundaries often passed on by major studios, though not every film is as terrific as the others, as A Glimpse of Hell proves. A Glimpse of Hell tells the story of the events that took place on April 19th, 1989 on board the USS Iowa. During what should have been a routine weapons demonstration, forty-seven American sailors lost their lives when an explosion ripped through one of the ship's turrets. After salvaging the dead bodies of each crewmember, the Navy soon went to work on finding the cause of the explosion, even if it meant grasping at straws and blaming innocent sailors. For the navy the most logical suspect was Clay Hartwig (Eaves), the supposed lover of fellow sailor Kendall Truitt (Harrold). The Navy alleged that Hartwig blew up the turret in an elaborate murder suicide because he was assumed to have been jealous of Truitt's marriage. For Lieutenant Dan Meyer, the explosion and subsequent allegations are being grossly misreported to the American public and he will stop at nothing to persuade those in power to seek the truth and clear the dead sailor's name. Meyer's greatest opposition comes from the captain of the Iowa, Fred Moosally (Caan), who wishes to close the case as quickly as possible, even if it means withholding the truth. As the film is based on actual events, and adapted from the novel by Charles S. Thompson, I can't help but wonder why A Glimpse of Hell fails to be the least bit interesting. Perhaps it is because, at a short eighty-five minutes, there is no room for the story to breathe and expand. Instead, we see the script go simply from point A to point B, and so on. We obviously know who is right and who is wrong from the scenes building up to the fateful event, but after that, the film fails to render one tension-filled scene. Another flaw of the film is its overly harsh depiction of homosexuality in today's world. More than once, a slur or slanderous remark is made as if to show just how evil the person saying it is. This is, I suppose, all for the purpose of establishing characters; but after we see them speak words that are hurtful over and over again, it becomes embarrassing and aggravating. As a film that was nominated by GLAAD for best television film of the year, I find it difficult to believe that anyone can find the treatment of homosexuality here a positive one. The film certainly looks terrific. Mikael Saloman does a fine job of creating a sense of claustrophobia on the battleship and his direction is fine in scenes away from the action. James Caan does a terrific job with what is really a supporting role as the captain of the Iowa, while Robert Sean Leonard is adequate in his performance as the dedicated Lieutenant.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, A Glimpse of Hell looks fine, with very few flaws. Sharpness and detail are terrific, which is evident in several scenes where the image is so crisp that it is easy to tell fake sets from the real ones. Grain is a small problem in some of the interior shots aboard the ship, though exteriors are not a problem. Colors are well done, and edge enhancement is a not a factor.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: A Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is offered for A Glimpse of Hell, and while it is active in some scenes, it is a dialogue-heavy mix for the most part. Ambient sounds come from the surround speakers and dialogue is clean and well-mixed, blending nicely with the left and right speakers. A Dolby Surround track is also offered, though it is much more muted in its soundfield than the Dolby Digital mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English and Spanish with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring b>Kiss Of The Dragon, Don't Say A Word, Sexy Beast, and The Deep End.
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: A collection of recent Fox films is available from the main menu via the Fox Flix option. The trailers featured are for Kiss of the Dragon, Don't Say a Word and two of the best films in recent memory Sexy Beast and the wonderful The Deep End.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

A Glimpse of Hell plays a lot like a movie-of-the-week in its overly dramatic tone, as well as its condensed storyline. The DVD from Fox is of their usual quality, but it is something to say for the quality of the film when the four bonus trailers are each more exciting than the feature itself.


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