PictureBroken Trail comes to Blu-ray presented with a glorious 1080p High Definition video rendition that makes the most of the sumptuous North American open range landscapes. Presented in the original (although perhaps not broadcast) aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen, the detail is surprisingly good for a TV production. Don't get me wrong, the picture is not without its flaws - over the three hour runtime you will see edge enhancement, grain and softness - but considering that it was basically made for TV, it looks superb. Facial detail could be a bit better, but is more than made up for by the landscape shots which are (when real) absolutely stunning. The colour scheme is quite warm for a western, with lots of rich browns and yellows, as well as luscious green ranges. Blacks are very variable - almost from one shot to the next - with the picture often suffering when candle or fire-lit, but are capable of being solid and deep, and the tones certainly look realistic and authentic. Overall it is a very good effort, despite any noted flaws, and there are few releases that boast this many gorgeous - and real - sunrises and sunsets, the kind of which will make you want to visit these parts.
SoundIn aural terms, Broken Trail gets unprecedented technical specs, with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track to accompany the visuals. Unfortunately the end result is not enough to justify - let alone showcase - a track with such capabilities. Thankfully the dialogue, which is arguably the most important aspect of the movie, gets keen presentation across the frontal array, coming across clearly and coherently throughout. Effects, however, take much of a back-seat, with only the most obvious noises - the horses, the gunfire - getting a prominent place on the track. Correspondingly, the dynamics are limited, the rears getting little to no action. Even the score only becomes apparent across the fronts and centre channel, again leaving the rears - and the sub - with very little to do. For a Dolby TrueHD track, it is difficult not to be disappointed, but when you take into account the origins of the material - it's TV movie nature - I suppose we should be at least grateful that they presented it with such a prestigious track, even if it does not live up to the fully capabilities of it.
ExtrasWe only get the one extra to round off the disc, but that is still arguably more than to be expected for the release of a TV production of this nature. The twenty-three minute Documentary “The Making of a Western Classic” is remarkably substantial, if slightly short, eschewing the standard fluffy approach to making-of featurettes in favour of lots of behind the scenes footage and decent interviews with the main cast and crew - including the Director and Robert Duvall himself. Fans of the production will certainly be chuffed to find this little gem.
VerdictBroken Trail is a superior TV production, an epic revisionist Western that showcases some of the best of what the genre can offer. With an outstanding central performance from Robert Duvall, who has some solid support, the sumptuous, well-paced tale of slavery, morality and humanity around the turn of the Century is a highly enjoyable, compelling affair. On Blu-ray it gets decent video presentation, a mildly disappointing (if technically superior) audio track and a nice single extra to accompany the movie, and fans should lap it up. Those fond of Duvall or Westerns really shouldn't hesitate in picking this up, and newcomers could consider a rental.
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