Given some of the recent events with the hurricane disaster in the east coast, it's an interesting coincidence to see something like 'Rescue,' the latest short documentary made for IMAX presentation. As we read stories of regular, everyday people struggling through this tragedy and working diligently to bring their lives back to some sense of normalcy, we should never forget the bravery and heroism of the men and women who voluntarily enter the chaos to help those in need and selflessly risk their lives as the path towards recovery is being set. These people have a passion for embarking on such actions with little to no hesitancy and without even expecting a simple gesture like a victim saying "Thank you." Always at the ready to help your fellow human being in such altruistic fashion is the real definition of courage and bravery.
From Stephen Low, the director of other IMAX docs such as 'The Ultimate Wave Tahiti' and 'Super Speedway,' this documentary is a celebration of the heroism shown by those men and women. It's a remarkable 45-minute ride that takes viewers into the drama of first responders, their methods of training and affords them the opportunity to speak from personal experience. Low does a tremendous job in capturing the adrenaline and thrills along with the emotional impact made by these service people. Seeing them in action, you gain a larger sense of respect and appreciation for their contribution to the social welfare of others, not just here at home as they did, and continue to do, in the east coast through well-planned FEMA efforts, but also abroad, ignoring imaginary country divides.
The movie starts with a look at some of the personal lives and rigorous training done by these men and women, always at the ready for when an emergency calls. Steven Heicklen is a business owner, firefighter and FEMA-certified member of a rescue team. He's a civilian volunteer seen here organizing and managing an exercise battling a wild blaze. Major Matt Jonkey is a helicopter pilot for the National Guard, responsible for supplying medical equipment, moving troops and helping with evacuation support. Captain Lauren Ann Ross is in the Air Force with over 700 combat hours and a decorated veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. As Commander and Executive Officer of the C-17A Globemaster III, she works hard at delivering medical supplies, evacuation support and military equipment and personnel. Commander Peter R. Crain of the Canadian Forces is captain of the HMCS Athabaskan supporting UN Sanctions and deterring Somalian pirates from ruling the Atlantic Ocean.
The second half of the movie then plunges audiences into the immediate disaster response during the Haiti earthquake of 2010. We see the naval officer, the rescue technician and the two pilots participate in a large scale humanitarian effort to help the citizens of the Caribbean island with food, water and shelter. It was a terrible tragedy that took over 300,000 lives and cost millions in damage. Major Jonkey surveys the destruction from above and delivers necessary aid when called upon. Commander Crain escorts and manages from the ocean as other countries send their medical and support personnel. Captain Ross flies her massive plane, transporting a large task force to aid on the groundwork and functioning much like makeshift hospitals, flying the injured out of harm's way and to medical facilities. And finally, Heicklen is on the ground with the rescue teams, searching for survivors and providing medical assistance.
I never really needed a reason to be grateful for the people in uniform and the excellent service they provide. Nevertheless, 'Rescue' increases my appreciation and respect for them, especially when seeing military personnel in a peaceful humanitarian effort. We see them in action, doing anything and everything to provide aid without asking for something in return. We hear and remember stories of tragedy and survival, but the first responders largely go unsung for their diligent work to help survivors with food and medical support, for the selfless relief they provide those most in need during a natural crisis. Watching 'Rescue,' I couldn't help thinking of the people doing precisely this during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, who do it purely out of the goodness of their hearts and not expecting to be thanked for it. That's ultimately the strength and enjoyment of watching Stephen Low's documentary of disaster response volunteers.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Image Entertainment brings 'Rescue' to 3D Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD25 disc inside a blue eco-lite keepcase with a lenticular slipcover. A 2D version of the movie is also found on the same disc. At startup, the disc goes straight to a 3D main menu with full-motion clips and music.
As is most often the case with IMAX-produced short documentaries, their latest release rescues Blu-ray with an astonishing 3D presentation that wows and amazes from beginning to end.
Presented in a 1.78:1 window frame, the 1080p/MVC MPEG-4 encode comes with a stunning layering effect that nicely separates foreground information and produces a great deal of depth. The image has a spectacular sense of three-dimensional space as objects in the background penetrate deep into the screen and create a convincing feel of things happening in the far distance. Several pop-out effects, like the ladder of a fire engine moving towards the audience, don't feel gimmicky, but actually add to the film's immersive picture quality and almost feels like it floats in the middle of the living room for a while. Other terrific scenes are when the camera circles the massive C-17 Aircraft and its nose or wings protrude from the screen.
The rest of the picture comes with vivid, comfortably bright contrast and crisp whites, giving it great pop and visible clarity. Black levels are rich and inky with excellent gradational details, adding to the image's dimensionality. Coming from a 70mm source, definition and resolution is astounding. Fine lines and objects are distinct, from the smallest pebble and debris on the roads of Haiti to individual bolts on the plane, frigate, and Chinook helicopter. Each patch, badge and ribbon is plainly discernible, and facials complexions are healthy with revealing, lifelike textures. Primaries are lush and vibrant while secondary hues are lively and opulent, providing the documentary with an exciting and energetic feel. The one small nitpick comes by way of some very minor, easy to ignore moiré effects and aliasing, which is only most evident at around the 38-39 minute mark.
Nonetheless, this is an overall fantastic 3D presentation celebrating the courage and heroism of the men and women who proudly serve their country.
Keeping up with the excellent video is this first-rate DTS-HD MA soundtrack that nicely complements the immersive 3D experience. Rears are constantly employed for a variety of occasions, such as the cries of the Haitian people or subtle atmospherics heard in the distance. Planes and helicopters are heard flying overhead with superb, flawless panning that's convincing and puts the listener right in the middle of the action. The best moments are when riding inside one of the aircrafts and surrounded by that hollow hum echoing all around as if actually flying in the middle of the air. Thrilling, emotional music also spreads into all the channels and keeps viewers invested with movie's sense of heroism.
In the front soundstage, dialogue is loud and clear in the center so that we can appreciate every moment expressed by the soldiers and volunteers. Dynamics are crystal-clear and room-penetrating while imaging feels widespread with a natural, engaging soundfield. Directionality and details are precise with brilliant fidelity and clarity. The low-end doesn't really rattle walls, but it's deep with the occasional authoritative oomph that will move the couch, especially in one scene during a practice rescue mission with the Chinook helicopter. Overall, it's a great lossless mix for a highly-enjoyable documentary.
Celebrating and honoring the courage of the brave men and women who serve in humanitarian aid, 'Rescue' is a fantastic journey that follows four brave lifesavers training and performing duties in disaster response. In light of the recent aftermath from Hurricane Sandy, the documentary proudly demonstrates how truly invaluable their selfless efforts and rescue missions are much appreciated. The Blu-ray comes with exceptional picture quality and an immersive audio presentation that will please IMAX fans everywhere. Supplements are disappointingly light, but the overall package is one 3D fans will want in their collection.