[box cover]


Few theatrical films have equaled the epic scope of Dick Lowell's Attila, a fact made even more impressive by the realization that the latter is a made-for-TV movie. Most television offerings don't rival Hollywood productions in terms of sheer spectacle, but Lowell's 2000 miniseries is as brash and fearless as the story's protagonist. Boasting a first-rate cast led by Tim Curry, Powers Boothe, and newcomer Gerard Butler in the title role, Attila cuts its action from the same cloth as Braveheart, yet doesn't blatantly rip off Mel Gibson's popular epic. The story itself is well known: Attila (Butler), like Joan of Arc before him, is a born leader who earns the loyalty of his countrymen through valiant deeds, eventually leading his people in a war for freedom against their oppressors (the Roman Empire in this case, led by Boothe in the role of General Flavius Aetius). Director Lowell, working with the largest budget of his career, has crafted an involving tale out of these well-worn elements and imbued his adaptation with some of the most beautiful cinematography in recent memory (courtesy of D.P. Steven Fierberg), stunning set design and costumes, and a sense of time and place rarely seen in prime time. The result is a film that looks and sounds like it emerged directly from the imagination, and the story's cohesiveness and visual beauty cannot be faulted. As a piece of narrative storytelling, however, Attila is often far from perfect. Robert Cochran's screenplay — although occasionally brilliant — nonetheless serves up groanably bad clichés from time to time, and even though the cast does what it can to compensate, these sophomoric dialogue-blunders are still apt to register. Likewise, the British accents employed by some of the minor characters are the worst we've heard since Ever After. But Attila is still a marvel to behold, whatever its petty flaws, and USA (Dick Lowell in particular) is to be commended for risking so much on an intelligent film that manages to hold its audience captive more often than not. USA Networks presents the three-hour Attila miniseries in a lovely widescreen transfer (1.77:1 according to the box, although the movie actually appears to be 1.85:1). Special features include a mesmerizing half-hour documentary on the making of the film (which actually manages to be informative and not just a fluffy piece of marketing propaganda like far too many other DVD "documentaries"), a collection of production storyboards, a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, and, oddly enough, a "theatrical trailer" (so called even though the film was made for the small screen). The English-only audio is presented in both Dolby 2.0 and 5.1 Surround. No subtitles. Keep-case.
—Joe Barlow