Before We Vanish Blu-ray Review

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Gentle Invasion of the Thoughtful Body Snatchers

by Casimir Harlow Feb 10, 2019 at 9:47 AM

  • Movies review

    Before We Vanish Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £19.99

    Before We Vanish Film Review

    Kiyoshi Kurosawa's latest is a quirky blend of whimsy, pre-and-post-apocalyptic sci-fi and human melodrama.

    Kurosawa has wowed audiences for decades, with his chilling psycho-horrors generally the best received, and features like Pulse and Creepy remaining amidst his best works. He's seldom ventured near outright sci-fi, however, this atypical (or actually pretty typical, considering this particular director's style) look at an alien invasion, commendably aiming for pure human content and deeper resonance, struggles to balance some rather odd whimsy with the weight of its (melo-)drama.

    The story follows a trio of aliens who form a reconnaissance party sent to investigate the earth before the full landing party arrive and take over the planet. The aliens take three human vessels, and set about attempting to learn as much as they can about mankind, 'stealing' emotions, feelings and meaning from the individuals they encounter, with a view to getting a better picture of their prey. One alien invades the body of a husband of a discontented wife, although it takes her more than a while to even notice anything is different about him.

    Aptly regarded as Kurosawa's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, although the humanity is arguably more akin to something like Arrival

    Clearly aiming for a slightly satirical look at the modern, disconnected generation - aloof and emotionless; barely interacting with one another - Kurosawa's observations may be valid, but he trusses them up with a comical whimsy (most often highlighted by a terrible score) that simply doesn't work. His message is valid, but the delivery is off, and it takes longer than normal for this film from the acclaimed filmmaker to actually hit its stride and pull you into the narrative and the plight of these oddball characters.

    It's certainly aptly regarded as Kurosawa's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, although the humanity is arguably more akin to something like Arrival, but this is not the director's forte, and last stage reflections on true love - however genuinely touching they may be - can be seen coming a mile off, making the journey arguably even more arduous. Whilst it still has the power to shock and surprise, this is a far cry from the lofty highs of the director who gave us Creepy just a year before.

    Before We Vanish Blu-ray Picture

    Before We Vanish Before We Vanish Blu-ray Picture
    Arrow bring the 2017 film Before We Vanish to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with a strong 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen.

    A strong, if far from exceptional, presentation

    Clearly the biggest in budget of all of Kurosawa's features, the film still boasts his inimitably 'natural' style, with normal, bland settings and little overt vibrance. Detail is largely excellent, and finer observations provide some welcome texturing to the backdrop, with no overt digital defects and no real issues to complain about even if the film hardly stuns with demo wonder. The colour scheme is slightly off, rendered with a sickly green-blue hue commensurate to the director's style, but most individual tones - skin and otherwise - ring true, and black levels provide a solid backbone to a strong, if far from exceptional, presentation.

    Before We Vanish Blu-ray Sound

    Before We Vanish Before We Vanish Blu-ray Sound
    Also a strong but seldom demo offering

    Arrow's accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is also a largely strong but seldom demo offering, frequently constrained by the limitations of the source material itself, which only chooses to pop on occasion, and mostly plays as reserved and restrained. Dialogue remains well prioritised throughout (the Arrow disc curiously refers to the audio options as 'English' tracks when, erm, they are not), largely delivered across the frontal array, whilst the score provides the majority of the material, flitting between vague moments of drama and - more often - broadly played notes of utter whimsy, that wouldn't have been out of place on a Jackie Chan caper. As well as swathes of silence, as Kurosawa frequently favours. The effects provide the weight, but only in fits and spurts, unleashing hell during the final act, with a literal salvo of explosions, but otherwise popping in only a few moments of gunfire or car crashes, and seldom engaging with the kind of intensity commensurate to a demo disc. Nonetheless, it's a more than capable accompaniment for this feature.

    Before We Vanish Blu-ray Extras

    Before We Vanish Before We Vanish Blu-ray Extras
    Arrow's UK Blu-ray release enjoys a veritable bounty of extra features, not least of which is the near-feature length hour-long Documentary that looks behind the making of the feature, and is accompanied by a couple of smaller Featurettes looking behind the story and the characters, respectively.

    A veritable bounty of extra features

    There's a group cast Interview segment, as well as a further bevy of cast and crew Q&A snippets from the press tour and premieres, with the disc rounded off by a trailer.

    Before We Vanish Blu-ray Verdict

    Before We Vanish Before We Vanish Blu-ray Verdict
    This isn't the strongest of the director's expansive oeuvre

    Kiyoshi Kurosawa's latest feature arguably does for Invasion of the Body Snatchers what his film Creepy did for Michael Mann's Manhunter, but the blend of sci-fi and whimsy isn't an easy fit, and this isn't the strongest of the director's expansive oeuvre. Arrow's UK Blu-ray release is nevertheless impressive, with strong video and audio and a plentiful selection of extra material. Fans should consider it a solid release.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99

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