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Daniel - drama DVD / suspense DVD review
DANIEL Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 3 stars
Actors: Timothy Hutton, Mandy Patinkin, Lindsay Crouse, Edward Asner, Ellen Barkin
Director: Sidney Lumet   Studio: BFS Entertainment
DVD release: 01 July 2008   Runtime: 130 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen
DVD Features: Audio tracks (English)

In many cases, when life comes full circle, it can bring comfort and closure. In the story of Daniel, this isn't necessarily how it works. The movie (circa 1983) tells the story of a young boy in a turbulent America whose parents are taken, tried and executed for treason. Based on the story of the Rosenberg couple, Daniel is wholly disruptive and unsatisfying - which perhaps is the ultimate goal.

Although the backdrop is heavily colored with the political notions of the 1950s, the story truly rests on the young shoulders of Danny. Little sister Susan becomes his responsibility to keep safe. His parents, Paul (Mandy Patinkin) and Rochelle (Lindsay Crouse), are fingered by a family friend as Soviet spies. Timothy Hutton is the adult Daniel, from whose point of view the tale is told. The story is less about the politics, though, and more about the psychology of the broken home left behind, the children of the activists. It couldn't help but mold Daniel and Susan's lives.

In addition to the strong actors mentioned above, Daniel also boasts amazing performances by Ed Asner, Ellen Barkin, and Amanda Plummer. Author E.L. Doctorow had a firm hand on the screenplay based on his fictionalized retelling of the Rosenberg fiasco, The Book of Daniel.

There are abrupt cut scenes, close-ups of Daniel describing various methods of executions used through the ages. These scenes are wholly outside of the movie itself and seem more than a little extreme and out of place. Perhaps they simply add to the overall feel of searching discontent of the film. Music is used sparingly and hauntingly - rich, deep voice crooning old gospels; high, innocent tones offering empty hope. The most intense tool used to set the mood for each era, for each mood, however, is not music or sets or costuming. The simple brilliant use of color - or lack of - evokes more emotion than even the top-notch acting.

This re-release has no special effects, special flashy menu, or special features. It tells a story, nothing more, and it is a difficult story to watch. It manipulates feelings and brings nausea in its wake. The sheer force of reality that we typically do not look in the face - watching the devastation to the lives around the two who were executed, watching the executions themselves, and living, briefly, the pain and confusion of all those involved - will change you. It is difficult to swallow and it denies comfort or satisfaction. There is no resolution. life will continue to demand to be lived, with or without concrete answers. However, the energy and conviction it begins with seems to peter out by the end, and we're left with nothing but sadness and a bad taste in our mouths.

The actors deserve the glory on this one. Because of them, Daniel is almost incredibly well-done.
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reviewed by Carolynn Evans
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