A Few Good Men Blu-ray Review
PicturePersonally, I find HD at it's most satisfying when it takes a film I know well and enhances it beyond recognition. A Few Good Men does this in spades.
From the very opening sequence, the level of detail in this transfer is noticeable. The feet of a marching band is shown, and they kick up leaves as they move through the grass. Every blade is clearly shown and the leaves exhibit an amazing amount of detail.
The source print is quite simply immaculate. There is no grain, and no specs of dirt or blemishes on the print. The black levels are perfect, and the depth of field is superb.
A good example of how much depth is seen in this print is visible in the scenes inside Kaffee's apartment. There are several shots angled from the kitchen area out over the living room. We see the dining room table, through into a long living room, and out into the street through the bay windows. The tree on the other side of the street can clearly be made out, with even individual leaves showing. This level of detail is clearly not available on the DVD (I checked both side by side).
The transfer is not all perfect though. I did see some problems with colours, particularly on facial detail. There is a shot early on in the movie with Kaffee, Galloway, and Nicholson around a table. Nicholson's face shows every careworn year, with a level of detail that rivals the best that HD has to offer. Unfortunately, whenever we cut to Kaffee and Galloway, their faces look plastic, overblown, and not natural. This is not a problem with the standard definition release, so it must be a problem with the encoding.
Although this is not the only scene where this problem is visible it is, nonetheless, not prevalent - only occurring a few times. This has led me to take a few stars off for the video - but take my word for it. This is a vast improvement over the SD release, and is certainly worth the upgrade.
SoundThe sound mix on this Blu-ray is presented in a PCM 5.1 mix and a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. For the purposes of this review I listened to the latter.
It should be made clear that this disc is faithful entirely to the original film's sound mix. The problem is that the original sound mix just wasn't particularly good. Now, it could be argued that a courtroom drama does not need a good sound mix, but there are plenty of scenes in this film that happen outside the courtroom - so it would be nice to have heard some effort.
The front sound field is very well mixed, with sound naturally occurring from all frontal directions. At one point someone knocks on Kaffee's front door from the left, and my father, bless him, was convinced that someone was knocking on the wall of my flat because the film was too loud. That is a convincing mix.
In addition to the front left and right channels being well used, the dialogue is also well anchored to the front speaker. I did feel at times that some of Cruise's dialogue was a little too faint - occasionally being hard to hear, but this is a minor quibble and only amounts to a few phrases.
It is the rears that see very little use here. Apart from one scene where a jeep crosses from the left rear to front centre, there is no use of the rears at all. This is a shame because there is a thunderstorm that could have sounded more dynamic, and several other moments which are crying out for some rear action.
Again, I should point out that the mix is faithful to the original design, and thus should be commended for not artificially “remixing” the sound. But it is not as all enveloping as it could have been, and for that reason is not going to get the highest mark. It is still better than the SD release though.
ExtrasAll the extras from the SD Special Edition release are here, with no HD exclusives. I am not a fan of commentaries and the commentary here from Rob Reiner is frankly poor. The guy is boring and sounds like he would rather be anywhere else than talking about his film. He lapses into long periods of silence, and when he does speak he simply does not engage the listener. One to avoid.
Much better are the two documentaries included. The first one I went to was From Stage to Screen, I was hoping for some insight into the way the film was developed into the film version. Sorkin is really fascinating in this documentary and has a great deal to say. Unfortunately, at only 14 minutes, he seems like he is rushing to get everything he wants to say in and the result is fascinating, if brief. Why has this guy not been given an audio commentary? It would have been much more interesting than the one we did get.
Rounding off the package is a 35 minute documentary Code of Conduct which is again very interesting. Filmed for the special edition release in 2001, this features most of the talent involved in new interviews about the film, interspersed with footage. Sorkin and Reiner both appear here, along with most of the acting talent, but unfortunately the three big hitters (Cruise, Moore, and Nicholson) obviously refused to be re-interviewed which is a huge shame. The first two absentees are compensated with clips from EPK's done at the time of the film's release but Nicholson is totally absent which is a great shame.
The extras package can best be described as interesting, but not comprehensive. I am sure more could be done, although it does rather look like the reluctance of the actors has rather hampered efforts to do more.
VerdictA Few Good Men is an excellent movie to arrive on Blu-ray. A well written, superbly acted courtroom drama featuring a host of highly regarded actors on the top of their game, this is a film that is that rare combination of a critical and a box office hit. If you have not yet had the pleasure of watching it, then that is something you should rectify immediately.
If you have had the pleasure before, then this disc is still worth the upgrade, primarily due to the increased picture quality that this disc offers over the SD edition. The sound is less of an improvement, whilst the extras are exactly the same as the SD Special Edition.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £28.95
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