Border (The): Season One (TV)
R1 - America - Mill Creek Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (28th August 2013).
The Show

***This is a technical review only. For reviews on the show from various critics, we recommend visiting HERE.***

"Get thrust into the fast-paced chaos of the elite unit charged with defending and protecting the longest border int he world! Intensely trained and highly skilled, the department of Immigration and Customs Security (ICS) is the first to jump intot he line of fire. Whether their mission is tracking suspected terrorists, hunting down escaped enemy combatants from a hijacked plane or breaking up major money laundering operations, the expertise and unconventional methods of the ICS team will have you on the border of your seat in anticipation. Witness the long tentacles of international crime try to break through the steel nerves of the world's harshest and most shocking border-security task force!

Season One Episodes Breakdown:
"Pockets of Vulnerability" (44:00) - When a Syrian immigrant is arrested as a suspected accomplice to a known terrorist, the ICS unit seeks to prove his innocence before he can be tortured for informatin.

"Gray Zone" (44:30) - ICS and Homeland Security clash during a joint undercover operation at a Mohawk casino.

"Bodies on the Ground" (44:38) - When a covert U.S. plane transporting suspected terrorists crashes in a Quebec forest, the unit seeks to recapture the escapees.

"Gross Deceptions" (44:54) - Kessler and American agent LaGarda butt heads with one another and an arms dealer while tracking stolen weapons.

"Compromising Positions" (44:38) - A political favor Kessler reluctantly does for an old flame leads to a press scandal and illegal doings tying a female labor minister to a Russian strip club (as well as issues in Kessler's own personal life).

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"Physical Assets" (44:38) - The key witness in the bust of a Hong Kong gang's human trafficking operation mysteriously disappears.

"Family Values" (44:38) - A Sudanese immigrant accuses an activist movie star of stealing his son.

"Enemy Contact" (44:38) - The ICS unit suspects a terrorist attack is going to hit Toronto.

"Restricted Access" (44:38) - The unit ends up quarantined on a freighter while searching for stowaways.

"Normalizing Relations" (44:38) - ICS believe a Cuban diplomat will be the target of an assassination attempt.

"Civil Disobedience" (44:28) - Kessler is investigated when his daughter takes part in an anti-nuclear rally at the site of a covert exchange of weapons-grade plutonium.

"Grave Concern" (44:28) - ICS must find a kidnapper who plans to auction his victim on a pedophile website.

"Blowback" (44:30) - Kessler discovers that a Bosnian war criminal receives amnesty in Canada.

Video

Mill Creek's three discs feature anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) presentations of the series first thirteen episodes. The transfers are interlaced, but they may possibly have been shot on film and finished in standard definition. During the pilot, your television's deinterlacers will be put through the ringer with the shaky-cam whip pans and actors quickly crossing the screen during the many suspenseful scenes of the unit closing in on suspects. Subsequent episodes feature a lot of handheld and steadicam work, but the style is less derivative of "NYPD Blue" and the like than the pilot.
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Disc three squeezes five episodes - nearly four hours - onto one disc, while the other two discs feature only four episodes; however, disc one actually has two encodings of the pilot episode (one with original audio, and one with the commentary). The compression is better than Mill Creek's SHAMELESS: SEASONS 1 & 2 sets - which I've also recently covered - since it's a newer production shot with newer equipment (and it's not PAL-converted), and much better after the pilot. Detail isn't strong, and edge-enhancement is occasionally more evident than at other times. The show has a gritty, bleached look at times - possibly shot in 16mm and color-corrected in the style popular with recent action and crime programs - so the look and the twitch camerawork do not always lend themselves to the appraisal of detail (scenes during the pilot were also shot with a faster shutter than usual to lend to the jittery feeling). For the premium price of most TV series sets - including ones with shorter 12-13 episode seasons like this and some British shows - I would expect more discs and a higher bitrate, but the sub-$15 retail price (probably cheaper online) really leaves little room for complaint.

Audio

Reviews suggest the Canadian set has Dolby Digital 2.0 surround audio, but viewers with Dolby receivers can get much the same effect with the 2.0 stereo track here by forcing ProLogic output.
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The sound design is actually quite immersive at times with emphasis on background chatter and environmental noise (as well as a neat bit in episode three where a character is temporarily deafened by a blast with plenty of distorted and muffled sounds and high-pitched ringing), so viewers should definitely switch on the ProLogic or any virtual surround controls they have with their set-up.

Extras

Disc one includes audio commentary on the pilot with co-creator/producer Peter Raymont, director John Fawcett, writer Janet Maclean, and actor James McGowan. They discuss the film's documentary style - the director had previously done a film on Canadian's ICS unit - and discusses intercutting material shot on location at the airport with the set-bound scenes (shot in the Rochester Ferry Building which has an infrequently-used immigration area), as well as coordinating the intercut live action and surveillance video playback. They also discuss the major influences on the show of the editor (who has directed subsequent episodes) and the composer. Maclean mentions that the Middle Eastern actors were glad to play characters with additional shadings (although she mentions the inaccuracies of some of the Arabic place names because the more authentic once were difficult to pronounce), while McGowan points out his co-stars and identifies many of the background performers whose work here he admires. The track also thankfully gives some context to the interaction between the various Canadian provinces. The director mentions the recasting of one of the supporting actors (and how those scenes reveal differences in the sets from the pilot and the series since the reshoots with the new actress were shot during pre-production on the second episode), as well as some other changes to the series' characters from the pilot after notes (McGowan's hair was dyed darker for the pilot but left blond for the series, and Jonas Chernick's character Slade eats less junk food than he does in the pilot).
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The cast and crew interviews segment (6:09) feels more like a promo piece with all of the major players given little opportunity to say more than how the series puts a human face on the unit and the people they deal with, and to briefly discuss their character's function in the show. The featurette is 4:3 fullscreen with letterboxed clips from episodes (viewers be warned that the segment does spoil the ending of the pilot).

Packaging

Mill Creek cheaply provides the set in a standard keep case with all three discs stacked on top of one another on the spindle. It does the job, but might not keep the discs from being scratched by the artwork side of the disc underneath in the long run.
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Overall

Packaging complaints aside, the retail price makes the set worth checking out for this neat series (which has eluded me since it plays in syndication at three in the morning on weekends in my area); although he Canadian set from Video Service Corp. is similarly prices and may be better packaged.
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The Show: A- Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: B+ Overall: A-

 


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