Burn After Reading Blu-ray Review
The video is framed in a theatrically correct 1.85:1 ratio which will naturally fill most of a widescreen display with a fuller image. It's transferred into 1080P High definition using the VC-1 codec.
For the most part the video presentation on this disc is a solid rather than a mere run of the mill affair. There are no major glitches of note but there's also very little to make the picture sparkle. Most of the colour palette has been subdued and as a result everything feels a little muted in appearance. The reds can appear overly dark but they've managed the fine line with the skin tones which appear to be very realistic indeed.
With the low levels of colours and good black levels on offer the contrast appears to excel. Surprisingly though, the synergy of these only go to provide the image with a fair level of depth. So, I'm afraid there's no 'pop factor' on offer here.
Detail in general is of high order and the close up shots of the actors reveal all of there features, including skin pores, in a pristinely clean and minute fashion. There is also a good amount of shadow detail and it's quite easy to make out the detail in the darker and more dimly lit scenes as well, for example when Linda goes with her dating partners to the restaurant.
Whilst you'll have no problem being impressed with the overall level of detail you'll also be pleased to hear that there is no evidence of any kind of compression artefacts or other video nasties either.
I also watched this film at the flicks when it first came out. The veneer of grain has passed through into this transfer and the use of digital noise reduction looks extremely limited, if at all.
I think you'll have quite a pleasant viewing experience watching this film in your home environment.
Universal has given this disc a DTS-HD lossless (48Khz/24-bit) Master Audio soundtrack. It comes in a 5.1 guise and not the 7.1 variety but that's of little concern here.
Much of the sound is dialogue centric and it's directed firmly through the front sound stage. Dialogue being anchored to the centre channel. Still, there's some good stereo separation across the fronts when needed and you'll get some dimensionality thrown at you. Disappointingly though the surrounds are brought into far too little effect and 5 channels of sound was probably as adventurous as it was ever going to get on this disc.
You'll get the odd thumping, crashes and low level sounds coming through to underpin the overall offering but it's not the forte of this soundtrack. Whilst it may sound a little harsh to criticise a movie that is not meant to be very demanding on these aspects I feel if you go to the lengths of providing a lossless DTS soundtrack then it's worth the effort to accentuate the sound as well.
Nevertheless the dialogue remains full bodied and very natural sounding. All the effects are pin sharp and clarity is a given. Ultimately though and not too dissimilar to the video side of things, there's something lacking to give this soundtrack that little special sparkle.
The disc comes with three extras on board. There's an option to use BD-Live if your player is suitably java enabled and you have access to the internet. The main extras are presented in an interpolated 1080 format.
Finding the Burn - (5mins 31secs) - Ethan and Joel Coen open this up by surprising us all that this script was actually written at the same time as No Country for Old Men. Surprising because both films are so very different. Perhaps Burn After Reading was a form of reverse polarised thinking at the time? An intrigue with the CIA, health and fitness and middle aged people is what led thiem to make this Washington based movie. Some inspiration !
DC Insiders run Amuck - (12mins 24secs) - This one is a bit more of an in depth insight into the thought process the Coens put into making this movie as well as the casting involved. It's all in their own words and they very much prefer to work with actors who they have established a previous rapport with. The only new one on this occasion was Brad Pitt. He may have been new to them and vice versa but his involvement in the movie worked and Brad was extremely funny in this movie. The cast also have enough humility to accept that they all had to portray a bunch of dimwits and knuckleheads. So what does it say about them all that they could all do it so convincingly well ? I jest.....
Welcome back George - (2mins 51secs) - This is George Clooney's third collaboration with the Coens. They clearly like him and write the parts with him specifically in mind for the role. There's no doubting that they're blessed with being able in getting the best out of him. It really shows that George is comfortable in this movie and his role is one that is central to it all.
User Guide - The disc comes Java enabled and if your Blu-ray player can take advantage you have three options to exploit to your hearts content. Seeing as this maybe new upon some of you this a short guide to each of the three features and how to get the very best out of the experience. My Scenes - how to create and use them, Registration - how to get hooked up to the internet, BD Live - what the portal allows you to access and share
BD Live Centre - Selecting this option takes you to the Universal BD-Live centre. Dependant on the speed of your connection and your player expect it to take up to a few minutes to get logged on and your display to come to life. Once there you'll get the option to view trailers of upcoming movies, access to exclusive content as well as the opportunity to join the BD live community. In order to get the most out of the experience you will have to register yourselves on their site. It's a good taster of things to come.
A Coen brother's script and a roster of high profile Hollywood stars sound like a recipe for success and Burn After Reading sure is. The Coens have taken an idea and juxtaposed a number of emotive desires such as greed, vanity, love and sex and frothed them into a frenzy of overlapping lifestyles.
The lives of the most unlikely of people are brought together in the most equally unlikely and unwitting of circumstances. No one person is ever completely right and no one person is ever completely wrong. In actual fact everyone that is involved here as a collective are so very, very wrong that it takes the CIA to pick up the pieces and make sense of it all. The Coens have taken those pieces and mirrored the lives that some people lead with more chaos and effect than a Mandelbrot.
More than a little removed from their last offering, Burn After Reading is actually quite a marked departure from No Country for Old Men. It is however no less of a film and you'd be mistaken to think that it was. They have had Hollywood eating out of the palm of their hands for so long now that this movie is quite evidently tantamount of their ability to dictate their own output. Ok, so it's not as experimental as you'd once expect of them but it's still a highly polished and unmistakably Coen brothers hallmarked film.
This blu-ray disc is though disappointingly an un-sensational package. The video aspects are solidly good and yes there's a high resolution lossless soundtrack as well but everything's been mastered a little too lacking in adventure for me. It would be far too harsh of me to criticise the combination of the two because for the most part they are more than adequate for the film. Looking at it with a potential purchase in mind though, you may not feel overly compelled to buy the disc for its technical merits alone. The extras are also a little too sparse to add real value even though there is some BD-live enabled content on offer for you to experiment with (if your player will allow you to do so).
Anyhow, all of this results in what is definitely a non-prescriptive yet thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable movie with an ending that is one of the best, most concise and funniest conclusions that I have ever seen. It's as hilarious as it is utterly absurd but nonetheless it's one that remains quite absurdly believable.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.79
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