Outbreak hits a rut at the start, a contrived and unnecessary divorce between its two lead characters, Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman) and Robby Keough (Rene Russo). Their divorce will of course add a personal element to the centerpiece, a killer African virus let loose within a small California town.
That however, can be forgiven. What follows is a gripping, tension filled story with a nice, flowing build-up. Sequences of the virus moving through the town are handled well, and one given a visual indicator inside a theater that is memorable.
Politics are also involved, beginning with the opening moments of a camp being firebombed after the virus spread through a military camp in Vietnam. The cover up risks being exposed with this modern outbreak, and tries to follow into moral issues.
The second hour is where Outbreak falls apart. Instead of being concerned with the virus, the script changes into a buddy movie. Daniels is teamed with Major Salt (Cuba Gooding Jr.), who then begins to fly him around searching for the original host of the virus. On his tail is a General (Donald Sutherland) who wants nothing more than to bomb a town of innocent people even after a cure has been potentially discovered.
Sutherland plays the character well, but doesn’t fit here. It is a character who has lost all touch with reality, obsessed with killing civilians if it means saving himself. It plays on every military cliché in the book, minus the cigar hanging from his mouth.
Sadly, Outbreak further discredits itself with an absurd helicopter chase, comprised of rather poor special effects and terrible one-liners. It’s great to know the world is safe, but it is a shame someone thought this was the way to do it.
Warner delivers a poor encode for this Blu-ray release, a soft, flat VC-1 transfer. While free of edge enhancement or DNR, detail is sorely lacking. Faces are bland and flat. Black levels are fair at best, failing to create convincing depth. Contrast is nicely controlled.
The source print is solid, with only minor specks spread thin throughout the movie. Flesh tones are somewhat pink, although not distractingly so. Banding around the 41-minute mark is almost surely intentional.
On the opposite end, a fine TrueHD mix is wonderful. The movie is filled with moving vehicles and aircraft. They are constantly tracked throughout the sound field accurately, and typically with a fine low end motor rumbling under it. An opening war sequence is loaded with bullets and beefy explosions.
A few minor dialogue sequences seem mixed somewhat low, mostly as the characters deliver their lines in whispers. James Newton Howard’s score nicely bleeds into all channels. If there are any complaints to be had, it is the bass. It doesn’t carry the clarity of the best discs available, coming through somewhat muffled.
Outbreak contains no extras, not even a trailer. If you can get to the home menu (which is a challenge), all you’ll find is an option to play the movie.