Picture3.10 To Yuma is presented on this disc in its theatrical ratio of 2.40:1 and it looks a dream. Its 1080p VC-1 transfer is extremely film-like, the grain in the image not at all distracting and part and parcel of a sturdy, gritty western. The disc reveals Phedon Papamichael's cinematography with a crisp, clean picture that favours close-ups for detail but allows a great sense of three-dimensionality to the numerous landscape shots and the figures moving through them. In short, the image looks nicely hi-def.
Colours are absolutely spot on and terrifically vibrant and bold. The sunsets are glorious swathes of pink and orange, skin-tones are nicely warm and naturalistic, blood is a thick, deep red and the landscape - from dusty scrub to rocky crevice to the snowy plains rolling away from the train-stop pick-up point of the town of Contention - is always painterly. The various explosions are bolstered by bright flame and convincing dust clouds. Charlie Prince standing before the burning coach looks astoundingly vivid. I did find that whites ran a little hot, the contrast occasionally jacked-up a bit too far, but blacks were deep and robust and betrayed no grey infiltration and didn't seem to swallow up any detail within them.
Detail is excellent, although far off delineation is not as sharp such as buildings at the edge of town and rocks and hillsides. Close-ups, particularly the always interesting faces of Crowe and Bale, are nigh-on perfect and of pure reference quality - every pore, every whisker and gleaming lucid eyes held up to even the most finite inspection. Weaponry and clothing, too, are perfectly rendered without any smearing or shimmering on patterns, near or far. Interiors are well presented with the fine attention to period paraphernalia well respected by the transfer - nick-nacks and whatnot are eye-catching and fill the image with engrossing detail and texture. Fast motion is handled very well indeed, with the numerous shots of charging horses, characters tumbling this way and that, and Wade and Evans making their last-ditch run for the train over roofs and through the vast wooden framework for a building under construction revealing no inconsistencies whatsoever in the digital transfer.
There is see some edge enhancement to be seen, but this was minimal to my eyes and should not prove much of a problem for anyone else. Definition, for the most part, is striking and crisp. Three-dimensionality is definitely revealed with numerous shots of characters striding or riding down streets, standing against the vast western vistas on offer and, most engagingly, when pointing guns at the camera -most notably Charlie Prince, who seems to make a habit of this practice. There are plenty of releases out there that have better pronounced depth than is exhibited here, but this is still a very rewarding high-def experience all around. A bit of grain, some edge enhancement and perhaps a smattering of noise is not enough to detract from what is quite a compellingly vibrant image. 3.10 To Yuma gets a very solid 8 out of 10.
SoundLionsgate, as I've said a couple of times before, are pioneers when it comes to their audio transfers. Supplying 7.1 channels of PCM uncompressed aural joy to things such as animated features The Avengers and DTS-HD MA to Doctor Strange seemed like ambitious overkill at first, but the tracks were so dynamic and engrossing that you just had to bow down in acknowledgement for being so well-treated by a company. But here with a live-action drama that is regularly bolstered by gunplay, horses and wagons thundering over the desert and the odd explosion or two, the mix is rendered with altogether more realism and subtlety. Quite simply, the film sounds amazing. Having recently seen the Coen Brothers' No Country For Old Men, I was impressed with the film's aural design of natural sounds, and Yuma is just as good in that department, too. There is lots going on within and around the soundfield, making you fully aware that you have been transported in time and that you and your sofa have been relocated to an altogether more dangerous place.
Directionality and steerage is simply excellent. From the whistling wind, the thundering of hooves and wagon wheels, coyotes howling in the distant night and the eerie sound of voices emanating from outside buildings whilst we are inside them, this is top notch stuff. Bullets have a tremendous smack and crack and are blasted in every direction with smart accuracy and realism. The night-time Apache attack features incredibly rich gunshots that whistle through the canyon, roar against the rocks and echo splendidly all around the set-up. The final fire-fight is a grand showcase for all this and more - wood erupts, bullets whip all around, Beltrami's score fills the room and there are meaty impacts dotted about with abrupt precision. The arrival of the 3.10 to Yuma is thunderous and belches out with terrific bass extension. You can hear the rattling of its gears and accoutrements, the hiss of steam and the whole thing seems to be literally pulling up right inside your house. Very impressive stuff.
For all this bombast, dialogue never suffers as far as I am concerned, although I know some people have complained that they struggled to catch certain snippets. There is also a DD EX 5.1 mix on board that, whilst still very good and dynamic, is simply no match for the PCM on offer. Even if you cannot take advantage of the full 7.1 channels on offer, you are still guaranteed of a scintillating presentation of superb steerage, aural immersion and all-out bombastic aggression.
The West have never sounded so Wild!
ExtrasAt first glance this package looks to be stuffed tighter than a Wells Fargo stagecoach carrying the all amassed arrows from Custer's Last Stand, although several of these features are actually of the few-minute-duration variety. But, in a neat turnabout, they are pretty decent, nonetheless.
Confusion initially reigned when it was thought that Lionsgate had released 3.10 To Yuma as a Profile 1.1 disc. But this is actually not the case at all. Instead, the interactive feature, Inside Yuma - which holds Blu-ray's elusive PiP function - is actually nothing of the sort. Rather than author the disc with full picture-in-picture, Lionsgate have put it out with the box-outs arrived at via separate video-streams that branch out of the main feature and take you to an alternate film track with them already burnt-in. Accessed from a vertical grey-bar menu down the left-hand side of the screen, with icons and feature-titles arranged to choose from, the function offers you pages from the screenplay, storyboards and the all-important behind-the-scenes glimpses. However, for those of you who, like me, have an old Samsung player (to be upgraded very, very soon ... I hope!) the actual PiP function possibly won't work. Although I could access the other elements of Inside Yuma, this portion - and probably the most interesting - just would not play ball. The film kept on playing, the icon was highlighted but ... the only picture-in-picture element that ever surfaced was some visual FX composites of the dynamite tunnel sequence, which proceeded to then lock up my machine after it had played. Ahh well. The other aspects of this function were nice to have but nothing that I would ever have returned to. And, ironically, had this been a full 1.1 feature I probably wouldn't have been able to play any of it!
James Mangold's commentary is well worth a listen. He is very scene-specific and incredibly fond of describing his characters' motivations, thoughts and intentions within a scene. He is also obviously fond of his actors and pays a large amount of respect to virtually everyone, though especially his leads and their ability to convey so much by doing so little. I'm not too sure about his comments regarding Marco Beltrami's score being a nod to Ennio Morricone though. The styles are completely different, as I will examine at length in forthcoming reviews for Beltrami's score for this and Morricone's scores for the Dollars series and Once Upon A Time In The West. There are also occasions when Mangold can lose himself within the mythical nature of the story and of the “sliver” of history that America regards as the Wild West era, comparing it to Tolkein's The Lord Of The Rings, for example. But, overall, this is a great track that is always interesting to listen to and, refreshingly, a little offbeat, too.
Plentiful features follow. Destination Yuma (20.58 mins) is a good and reasonably thorough making of. We meet the stars on-set and hear from Mangold, his producers, set designers and stunt co-ordinators. Whilst this is sporadically talking-head material, the bulk of the doc is made up of location footage. We see towns being built, stunts being arranged and rehearsed - very good analysis of what went into the wagon-tipping near the start - and it is great to see the dust-ball gun being described and used. Gretchen Mol complains about the draught up her skirt and Peter Fonda is not a fan of dust, and it is surprising how much nastier people getting shot looks when we can see cameramen and crew impassively looking on! Great feature, folks, that is over far too quickly.
Outlaws, Gangs And Posses (12.57 mins) has a gaggle of historians and writers attempting to demystify the legends of the Wild West. Lots of illustrations and photographs help tell the story of the usual suspects - the James Gang, the Daltons, Butch and Sundance etc - and their savage, headline-baiting careers. The connection between criminality and the defeat of the Confederacy is adroitly brought into focus as one of the main catalysts for disillusioned veterans turning to a life of crime. Shoot-outs are opened-up for scrutiny and famous incidents - the OK Corral, Coffeeville, etc - are dissected for what really happened and not how myth has continually portrayed them. Although a very speedy overview of the fascinating topic, this is still very good value.
An Epic Explored (6.22 mins) is a gathering of the cast and crew as their give their views on the western genre and its unending effects upon popular culture, modern mythology and how it is used to address contemporary issues via its removed and fantastical milieu without coming across as preachy or condescending. I like Mangold's take on the concept - how all these archetypal elements of the outlaws, the gunfights, the Indian Wars and the railroads only came together for a very brief moment in history, yet created a vast canvas with which the imagination can run wild virtually forevermore.
3.10 To Score (7.36 mins) focuses on Marco Beltrami, one of the greatest modern film composers, and his score for Mangold's movie. Still very young and with hopefully hundreds of scores ahead of him, Beltrami shows us how he created music and sounds for the film by “clustering” notes on an upright piano with fishing-wire and Mangold talks about how he wanted to use the music and, interestingly, when he wanted a total absence of it. Short piece, but interesting.
A longer feature comes up next. From Sea To Shining Sea is a 19.35 min chronicle of the unstoppable progress of the railroads. Some familiar historians pop up again and there are lots of amazing photographs and maps to help illustrate this momentous era in America's history. Quite impressive.
A Conversation With Elmore Leonard (5.24 mins) is something of a letdown, though. The writer is on fine and articulate form, but he is only given the opportunity to provide the genesis for his career in literature, with scant anecdotes and barely any hint as to the deeper psychology of the world he so loves to probe. The story 3.10 To Yuma and its filmic adaptations are on given very short thrift, and although there are some interesting photos of the younger Leonard and some lavish book covers, this feels like a very abridged version of a much longer and more informative piece.
The Guns Of Yuma (6.17) is a cool featurette, though. We meet Thell Reed, who was the armourer for the movie and he talks us through the individual weaponry that the cast carried, from Evans' old-fashioned Civil War-era Springfield repeater to Wade's custom-made “Hand Of God” six-shooter. A strict adherence to authenticity was maintained and you've just got to love that long-range, revolving sharpshooter rifle that Wade's Mexican sniper uses.
Then we get seven Deleted Scenes that can be played individually or as a Play All. The first two are actually quite good and provide a lot more detail for the doomed character of Wade gang-member Tommy Darden. The rest are really scene extensions and one that would have resulted in a different course of events for the pivotal moment when Evans' son suddenly reappears. Not a bad selection then, overall.
Then there is another interactive feature called Historical Timeline Of The West. When activated this opens up a sequential course of events during the pivotal years of America's frontier taming - commencing with the Civil War, then moving on through the Gold Rush, the Indian Wars and the development of the railroads. There is a map and some text-based information for each year and event in question. Not bad in theory, but still little more than an overview.
This extensive package is rounded further with the film's trailer and seven other previews for Rambo (oh wow, can't wait, can you?), War, Lord Of War, The Condemned, Crank, The Punisher and, erm, Good Luck Chuck.
Overall, this is a more than decent roster of features that makes the package feel weighty and great value. Personally, I would have liked more from Leonard and more on the original movie ... but, hey, this is impressive enough for most people, I would have thought.
VerdictAs Western remakes go, this is a great updating and does almost everything right. Big stars, lots of action, a gritty depiction of the era and the environment, sparkling banter and an engrossing take on the story. Crowe steals the show - which wouldn't be hard, considering that the villain always gets the best lines and, in this case, has the extra ammo of boundless charisma to help him run away with the scenery, chewing all the way. Bale is excellent value, too, but he is overshadowed by Crowe's infectious and grizzled glee. Mangold gets some mileage out of the story and it would be difficult to think of a modern audience sitting through it if he had kept strictly to the original set-up - although with two terrifically intense actors as Crowe and Bale in the lead roles that would probably have been just as exciting to watch if the entire film was set in a stuffy hotel room as the clock tick-tocks its way to destiny and the two try continually to climb into one another's head.
A good, solid film that offers fans of the genre a whole heap of entertainment. If Westerns don't float your boat, then there is possibly little that even the two big stars strutting their stuff in this can do to sway you, as Mangold's movie is deliberately “old school” and stubbornly un-revisionist. As a companion-piece to the original (and I have watched the two as a double-bill), the remake lacks the suspense of the High Noon-style build-up but more than makes up for it with testosterone and adrenaline.
The BD package is equally strong. There has been a gaffe made with the PiP feature as, really, this should have been a bonafide Profile 1.1 release, but the sheer wealth of extras is thoroughly rewarding in many other respects. And with AV quality that will make you proud - the audio is sensational - 3.10 To Yuma is exceptional value. Well recommended.
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