• George Wallace



    Released by: Warner Brothers
    Released on: January 27, 2009.
    Director: John Frankenheimer
    Cast: Gary Sinese, Mare Winningham, Joe Don Baker, Angelina Jolie, Terry Kinney
    Year: 1997
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    The Movie:

    For those who don’t know, George Wallace was a Democratic U.S. Senator who served four terms representing the state of Alabama and whose main claim to fame was that he was quite openly pro-segregation during that tumultuous time in American history where segregation was thankfully being torn down.

    The TNT original mini series, titled, appropriately enough, George Wallace, stars Gary Sinise in the lead and it reenacts with no small amount of dramatic flair the senator’s rise through the political scene of the southern united states of the era through to his conversion to Christianity, his repentance for his racist views with a good bit of focus paid to the assassination attempt that saw a bullet injure his spin when he ran for president in 1972.

    Along for the ride are actors Mare Winningham, Clarence Williams III and, surprisingly enough, Angelina Jolie (who scored a Golden Globe for her performance) – all of whom turn in excellent supporting performances but none of whom are nearly as good here as Sinise, who does an exceptional job of portraying the conflict that Wallace must have felt throughout his life. While there’s no doubt that the man was a racist early on, he played up his views not because he was so staunch in them but because he wanted to appeal to the more radical racists who held so much power in Alabama at that time. This hardly redeems his actions, but it does give Sinise a very meaty role to sink his teeth into and he does just that, providing all manner of subtle character to his performance.

    Directed by the late, great John Frankenheimer, this couldn’t have been an easy project to film objectively. There’s certainly no way that someone like Wallace wouldn’t polarize a modern viewing audience and while there’s a certain amount of redemption later on in his life that is worth exploring, the fact remains that he did and said a lot of really hateful and horrible things that made things worse for the minorities who were, whether he liked it or not, some of the people he was being paid to represent.

    Not surprisingly the film is very dialogue driven but it doesn’t ever feel too dry thanks to the effective pacing and confident camera work. Had the performances been weak in any way, this is a film that would have flopped but Frankenheimer gets the most out of his very talented cast and winds up making the most out of this, crafting a political bio-pic that is actually reasonably objective without sacrificing entertainment value.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Warner’s anamorphic widescreen transfer presents the movie in its original aspect ratio spread out over two discs to keep the bit rate healthy. Color reproduction is nice and lifelike and looks quite natural while detail levels look strong throughout. There aren’t any problems with mpeg compression or edge enhancement though some mild shimmering is present in some scenes.

    The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is clean, clear and free of any hiss or distortion. The levels are well balanced throughout and the dialogue is always easy to understand and follow. There isn’t a lot of channel separation but it is there if you listen for it and while this mix won’t blow anyone away, it certainly gets the job done. Optional subtitles are provided in English, Portuguese, and Thai.

    The first disc in the set is completely barebones save for chapter selection and some classy menus. The second disc has those same options as well as a nice little documentary entitled Vision And Conflict: Collaborating On The Wallace Saga in which Gary Sinise, Angelina Jolie, Mare Winningham, and a few others discuss their work together on this film and share some memories of what it was like working with the late, great John Frankenheimer on this picture. It isn’t as in-depth as it could have been given the film’s controversial historical subject matter but it is a nice tribute to the man who directed the project and its interesting enough in its own right.

    The Final Word:

    A strong and very well acted political bio-pic, George Wallace is a lot better than its TV movie origins would probably have you believe. Sinise’s lead performance is complimented nicely by a strong supporting cast, some solid direction and a tight script making this one well worth a look for those who enjoy their movies with a healthy does of politics thrown in.