The War Zone on DVD

Dom Robinson reviews

Distributed by
Film Four

    Ray and Lara

  • Cert:
  • VCD 0016
  • Cert: 18
  • Running time: 95 minutes
  • Year: 1999
  • Pressing: 2000
  • Region(s): 2, PAL
  • Chapters: 16 plus extras
  • Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Languages: English, audio-descriptive in English
  • Subtitles: English for the hard of hearing
  • Widescreen: 2.35:1
  • 16:9-enhanced: Yes
  • Macrovision: Yes
  • Disc Format: DVD 9
  • Price: £19.99
  • Extras : Scene index, Trailer, Dolby Digital Trailer, Behind the Scenes,Cast & Crew Interviews, Shooting the Film, Audio Description for theVisually-Impaired


      Tim Roth


    Sarah Radclyffe and Dixie Linder


    Alexander Stuart (based on his novel “The War Zone”)


    Simon Boswell


    Dad: Ray Winstone (Face, Ladybird Ladybird, Martha Meet Frank Daniel and Laurence, Nil By Mouth, Quadrophenia, Scum, TV: Births Marriages and Deaths)
    Mum: Tilda Swinton (Caravaggio, Edward II, Love is the Devil, Orlando, Female Perversions)
    Jessie: Lara Belmont
    Tom: Freddie Cunliffe
    Lucy: Kate Ashfield (TV: Soldier Soldier)
    Carol: Aisling O’Sullivan (The Butcher Boy, Michael Collins)
    Nurse: Annabelle Apsion (TV: The Lakes, Soldier Soldier)

The War Zoneis a metaphorical term for fifteen-year-old Tom (Freddie Cunliffe) andhow he feels when his life is turned upside down after his family make themove from London to Devon. Cut off from his old friends, he feels there’snothing but a barren landscape there. His Mum (Tilda Swinton, lookingno longer like she could pass for a man as she did in Orlando) isabout to give birth to her third child Alice, but Tom soon learns thatthere’s more going on between a father (Ray Winstone) and daughter,the eighteen-year-old Jessie (Lara Belmont), than there should be.Also in the mix is Kate Ashfield as Lucy, who casts a keen eye inTom’s direction.

This film marks the acting debut for those playing the two teenagers, as didthe excellent Alan Clarke film Made In Britain for one of Britain’sfinest, Tim Roth. With The War Zone, this marks Roth’s debutas director following years of successful film performances in Meantime,The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover, Captives, Rob Roy, Gridlock’dand Tarantino’s first two films, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.

Of the cast, everyone plays their part well, but only newcomer Lara Belmont,although I’m sure I’ve seen her before somewhere was picked from obscurity inLondon’s Portobello Road market, really shines through caught in the middleof the situation with her father and the effect this has on her scowlingbrother as he follows her about, not to mention what happens when the secretis revealed.

The picture quality of the disc is very good but it has a tinge of fuzzinessthroughout the film. It’s nothing to worry about particularly and may be downto the bleak landscapes of the coastal region which appear even less invitingthan they already aren’t. The film is presented in its original theatricalratio of 2.35:1 and Roth uses the space provided extremely well, often juxtaposingdiffering elements at either sides of the screen. The average bitrate is a superb7.7Mb/s, often peaking over 9Mb/s.

The sound quality is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is played more forambience than anything else. There is a soft, lilting score from SimonBoswell, to which you are introduced on some of the menu screens, thestyle of which reminds me of the score from Contact, but the story istold more in the scenes of silence and there’s a notable stark contrast betweenthat and the disturbing sounds that you can hear.

Extras : Chapters, Trailer and Production Notes :16 chapters, 15 for the film and one separate for the end credits. The filmisn’t that long but I never say no to more chapters. The original theatricaltrailer is included as is the Dolby Digital “train” trailer. Languages/Subtitles :English Dolby Digital 5.1, with subtitles in English for the hard of hearing.Also, for the first time I’ve ever seen on a DVD, the disc comes completewith a feature-length audio-descriptive track which details the scenes interms of backdrop and what happens in the foreground as if it’s being readout from the book (which it may well be, but I’m too busy spinning 5-inchdiscs than delving between the pages of a novel 🙂

The spoken word is delivered courtesy of actor Neil Stuke who is probablybest known as Ben Chaplin‘s replacement for the character Matt Maloneafter series one in BBC2’s excellent sitcom Game On, directed by John Stroud.In that show, Neil’s voice is anything but subtle, but here he sounds so posh thatI never recognised him until he announced himself over the closing credits.

And there’s more… :Shooting The Film provides an engaging eight-and-a-half minutesin the life of the cast and crew as they made the film, while Behind the Scenesis more of a typical featurette that can be found on a DVD these days and incorporatesclips from the interviews I’m about to mention next.

The Interviews section occasionally stop-starts too much as each pieceof chat is interrupted by captions stating what they’re talking about and therough footage cuts into that spoken by the unseen interviewer and sometimes theinterviewee. It was annoying to hear co-producer Dixie Linder say thatthey’ll “get a lot of stick from the press because…” Erm…because what?

Everyone major gets a chance to say something, but while Tim Roth gets nearlyfive minutes, the others don’t get as much and the attractive Lara Belmontonly has 90 seconds to get her points across including the fact that she doesn’tparticularly want to pursue a career as an actress, but I hope she seriouslyreconsiders that. You must watch the film first before any of these interviews asthey give away plot points.

Menu :A static shot of the cover but some of the menus are accompanied by selectionsfrom the soundtrack. Options are available to to start the film, selecta scene, or visit the extras menu.

Tim Roth

Overall, this is a brilliant start to Tim Roth‘s (right) career as adirector – especially down to the way that the film is treated as if being seenthrough Tom’s eyes – and I’ll look forward to see what he comes up with next.

Also, VCI prove yet again that not only can they get a day-and-date DVD out ontime, but that such a much-awaited disc has been released with some decent extrasas well including the audio-descriptive track. The The War Zone tells adisturbing tale and is a film that deserves to be seen by everyone. The actorsinvolved come from many different backgrounds so if you have an interest in anyof them, this is worth checking out.

And once you’ve seen it through, play it again with the audio-descriptive track asit really does bring about many of the scenes in a new light.


Review copyright © Dominic Robinson, 2000Check outVCI‘s andFilm Four‘sWeb site as well as the OfficialWar ZoneWeb site.

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