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Fox Home Entertainment presents
The Grid (2004)

"Don't let the politics and the infighting distract you. The stakes are high."
- Jay Aldrich (Robert Forster)

Review By: Matt Peterson   
Published: February 08, 2005

Stars: Julianna Margulies, Dylan McDermott
Other Stars: Bernard Hill, Jemma Redgrave, Piter Marek, Robert Forster, Tom Skerritt, James Remar
Director: Mikael Salomon

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, some sensuality, language)
Run Time: 4h:26m:00s
Release Date: February 08, 2005
UPC: 024543130352
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BA-B+ B

DVD Review

In the wake of 9/11, it was only a matter of time before the events of the day and the activities peripheral were dramatized for prime time. Walking the fine line between sensitivity and ratings, several programs have premiered in short order. TNT's original mini-series, The Grid, is one of the first major attempts to do so (joined by the gripping 24, the not-so successful Threat Matrix, and others). This six-hour saga boasts some strong star power, and attempts to reveal the complexities and difficulties of fighting the war on terror in which false trails and fanaticism are linked via the technological web that makes our world smaller every day; this is the grid, an effective weapon for both sides.

After a sarin bombing is botched in London causing the deaths of 19 innocent hotel guests, NSA official Maren Jackson (Julianna Margulies) creates an inter-agency team free of the bureaucratic ties that prevent cohesive intelligence and action. Members include FBI agent Max Canary (Dylan McDermott), CIA analyst Raza Michaels (Piter Marek), and MI-6's Emily Tuthill (Jemma Redgrave). Other participants include M1-5's Derek Jennings (Bernard Hill), an old friend of Canary's, and the requisite upper-level opposition, Acton Sandman (Tom Skerrit)—a man who does not enjoy being tread upon. A champion of bureaucratic nonsense, Sandman's personal connections to terrorism lends him a unique sense of motivation, one that gives him confidence in his decisions alone.

As the intelligence pours in about future targets, a perpetrator is identified: the not-so-creatively named Muhammad (Alki David) has returned, leading a cell of terrorists on a jihad to disrupt western oil interests worldwide. His cohorts include Kaz Moore (Barna Morcz), a Chechan-American who clandestinely fights for Al-Qaeda, and Raghib (Silas Carson), a doctor who believes in the terrorists' goals, but not in their methods. Some clues point to an attack in Lagos, while others suggest an assault on New York's subway system is imminent. Maren chooses to divert resources to Manhattan against the advice of MI-6. As the bombs tear through a gathering of oil tycoons in Lagos (including Maren's boyfriend), Maren's competence is questioned. More attacks are sure to follow, and Maren's team must regroup and resist internal squabbling to save lives.

This is only the beginning. The Grid is an intricately plotted, globetrotting suspense thriller that has no trouble filling its running time with relationships, plenty of intrigue, and enough details and characters to send one's head spinning. This is a well-researched series that attempts to take a serious look at the war on terror, akin to Traffik's uncompromising look at the war on drugs. While not as successful as its British predecessor, The Grid relies on some interesting interpersonal details that give the series life beyond gobs of technobabble, and shies away from rampant stereotypical depictions. The mini-series makes every effort to single out certain fanatical elements of Islam as the terrorists, and avoids any kinds of generalization (the character of Raza, a Muslim CIA analyst, brings these issues to the forefront).

Regardless of its careful, sensitive, intelligent approach to the material, the series never quite reaches the height of its potential. At times bogged down in its own procedure and exposition, The Grid also seems to founder in some predictable depictions (including a scene lifted directly from The Battle of Algiers), plot lines, and some forced sexual encounters that make the promo commercials look all the more juicy. Cliffhangers are somewhat weak, creating rather blunt ends to several episodes. Also, I found the character names, revealed during each episode via annoying black-and-white freeze frames, to be very distracting and odd. "Max Canary" doesn't exactly conjure the image of a sharp federal agent. And who in the world would name their kid "Acton Sandman"?

Despite some weaknesses, this remains a decent mini-series that will hold one's interest, and consistently entertain. The worthwhile performances from its star-studded cast make things go down a bit easier; the standout for me was certainly Bernard Hill, who emits great presence and authority in his scenes. Well photographed, and scored with modern electronica, production value is topnotch; just don't expect anything particularly fresh.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Fox's anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer is excellent. Detail is very good, and contrast is solid, showcasing a sharp, colorful image. Some grain is evident here and there, but this is superb work for television.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 5.1 audio delivers, as well. Channel separation and dynamic range are good, and the surrounds do a nice job of providing ambient fill and the occasional directional effect. This is not as dynamic as a Hollywood blockbuster, but good for this kind of material.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 72 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
13 Deleted Scenes
3 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by director Mikael Salomon and executive producer Tracey Alexander (Hours Three and Four); scene specific commentaries by Dylan McDermott and Julianna Margulies (Hours One, Two, Five, and Six)
Packaging: Amaray Double
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The extra material is divided over both discs, which are similar in content. Disc 1 begins with various commentaries, starting with a track on Hour Three by director Mikael Salomon and executive producer Tracey Alexander. Disc 2 features another commentary by the duo on Hour Four. Disc 1 also contains scene-specific commentaries by Dylan McDermott (11 scenes, 16m:59s total) and Julianna Margulies (11 scenes, 18m:55s). Disc 2 continues with comments by Margulies (eight scenes, 13m:36s) and McDermott (five scenes, 11m:56s) on Hours Five and Six. The director/producer commentaries are certainly superior.

Nine deleted scenes on Disc 1 include "Hudson Benoit," "Max and Jane Kiss," "Emily Dances," "Why Did You Agree to See Me?," "Akil Dances with Girl," "Limo Picks Up Raza," "Muhammad Reviews Plan," "Kaz Shows Passport," and "Do You Have Good Business Here?" Disc 2 contains four deleted scenes, including "Max Questions Delivery Driver," "Max Questions Dr. Armand," "Omar Is Dead," and "You're Still Here."

Three featurettes are divided between the discs. Disc 1's Decoding The Grid (08m:22s) is a pretty standard EPK featurette on the show's inception, including some discussion on its intended similarity to the original Traffik. VFX: Secrets of The Grid (03m:53s) is a brief look at the show's visual effects, some of which have quite a range in quality. Race Against Time (07m:06s) is a discussion on the film's budgetary and production woes.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

The Grid's look at the war against terror and debilitating bureaucracy never quite takes off, but manages to entertain with its strong actors, meticulous plotting, and solid production values. Fox's set will satisfy fans.


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