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Reviewed November 26th, 2002 by David Nusair


A Glimpse of Hell proves that just because a movieís based on a true story, doesnít mean that itíll necessarily make for a compelling film.

James Caan stars as Captain Fred Moosally, a good natured but irresponsible man who gives his men far more leeway than he probably should. The problem arises when his new Lieutenant, Dan Meyer (Robert Sean Leonard), is encouraged by an overeager engineer to conduct an experiment which will land the Iowa in the record books. Their plan is to shoot a missile farther than has ever been attempted, a feat which puts a tremendous amount of strain on the ship. A fellow engineer (played by Daniel Roebuck) refuses to help out with the trial, because he knows itíll require more strength than the ship can handle. Well, needless to say, the exercise fails miserably Ė killing close to 50 crewmembers. The remainder of the film follows the trial and the attempt by the Navy to place blame anywhere but on themselves.

A Glimpse of Hell might hold some appeal for folks that get a kick out of watching the History Channel, but those in search of a film with dramatic content will surely be left disappointed. Thereís no spark here; the whole thing plays like a cheesy re-enactment Ė except, obviously, with far better actors. Director Mikael Salomon tries his best to inject some style into the proceedings, throwing in the occasional virtuoso camera trick, but thatís akin to topping a really bad cup of ice cream with a delicious chocolate sauce. Youíre temporarily distracted by how terrible the core is, and soon youíre right back to where you were.

Itís that plainness that plagues A Glimpse of Hell; with shows like Law and Order and Jag ever-present on TV, just filming a true story isnít going to cut it. For one thing, it has to be an engaging story, which A Glimpse of Hell isnít particularly. The tragedy itself does hold some interest, if on an entirely morbid level. But since, to this day, nobody is entirely sure what caused the explosion, the movie has to end on a note of vagueness. Even the trial sequences, usually a saving grace for a dull flick, are tedious (due mostly to, presumably, the fact that itís slavishly faithful to the original trialís court notes).

A Glimpse of Hell may enthrall history buffs, but for the rest of us, itís about as exciting and compelling as an appendectomy.

Audio: This DD 5.1 soundtrack is quite effective, especially in the early sequences featuring the mistakes aboard the ship. Sounds come from all around, and certainly has a ďyou are thereĒ feeling to it.

Video: Just as good is this 1.85:1 transfer, which is anamorphically enhanced. Since the movie was made for TV, itís not surprising how clean this transfer is.

Extras: Not much, aside from some 30-second commercials for other Fox DVDs.

Conclusion: A Glimpse of Hell is dull, despite the presence of some decent actors.


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