Children of Men Blu-ray Review
The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 1.85:1 1080p transfer with the Mpeg-4 / AVC codec. The film demonstrates a grim, dirty world and the print matches it perfectly; it is washed out, dirty and pallid, all intentional and is transferred wonderfully. First up the detail level is outstanding from the leaves on the ground to the graffiti on the walls; from skin defects and clothing weaves to instrument panels in vehicles; from wide cityscapes to readable wanted posters; everything is clear, precise and pin sharp.
Colours are deliberately muted and drab; red is particularly thinned to bring a predominance of greens and blues, so when there is some red presence it stands out bold and strong; the red wine or blood. Although colours are deliberately washed they have not lost any of their lustre, blues and greens are suitable bold and strong, check out the forestry or the uniforms of the soldiers.
Brightness is set low, in places a little too low; yes there are deep inky blacks; yes there is plenty of depth to the frame, but at the expense of some detail loss in the very darkest points. It's not overly distracting and for the most part the picture is spot on, but certainly towards the beginning of the film the picture is very dark. No such qualms with the contrast though which is set perfectly though out, whites are never once over blown nor boosted.
The original print does have a few spots and speckles and does have a faintest veneer of grain, however, this seems to fit the corrupt nature of the world it represents and I for one am not marking it down for such. Unfortunately there are some posterization problems and a little rainbowing with the colours, this is especially true of the mist in the final scene; it's not overly distracting and it is possible that if you're not actively looking for such problems it will pass by unnoticed. On the whole this is a good solid picture missing reference by a whisker due to the digital problems.
Only the one sound track to choose from; an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround @ 640Kbps. This is a thoroughly immersive and absorbing sound track that always takes the opportunity to place you in the centre of the action giving directionality throughout. Let's examine the very first scene: Theo is ordering his drink amidst the crowd while the TV drones on about the death of 'Baby Diago' after which he walks into the street just to miss the terrorist bomb. The sound design for this scene alone sets up just how good the rest of the track is; Theo's ordering dialogue is clear above the general hubbub of the crowd, which murmurs from all the speakers, the TV crackling away to the far left. As he leaves, through the ambient noise into the street, suddenly the speakers come alive with cars, air, buses and street ambiance; as he turns the huge thump as the bomb detonates resonates from the right to the left and then spreads throughout the room smothering it in debris. There are many other scenes set up the same, to many to lost, save to say the action is given full directionality, as is dialogue (witness the discussion about where Kee should have her baby where dialogue assaults you from every direction). It seems whenever there is no 'action' to fill the speakers, then there is music.
There is a good full range with plenty of bass, everything comes across as natural sounding and 'real' i.e. not post altered. Gun fire rattles and distant gun fire cracks, debris falls and dust sweeps over you. The score is full range and makes use of all the speakers, it too is fully immersive. LF effects are somewhat limited, but with the all real sounding track this is to be expected, no glorification of gun fire here. However, that is not to say it is lacking, there are thumps and rumbles a plenty during the final battle sequence, but so integrated with the sound stage are they that they become difficult to differentiate. I loved the Zen music though, especially when it cuts to the outside of the house and the bass wumps through the distance.
Only fly in the ointment, perhaps, is the general mayhem of the final battle scene which could have been toned down ever so slightly, with so much going on it is quite easy to get lost; the sound doesn't become muddled, but its placement does suffer some. But this is small potatoes in what is an amazing track and definitely one to show off your system.
Sadly there are no extras on this disc despite the cover listing trailers, a lost opportunity considering the amount of material there is out there for this film.
Children of Men may have a simple story, it may have the occasional one dimensional character, it may contain aspects of illogical scripting; but none of it matters, because the film is just so damn compelling that it demands attention. It is a world that could exist; indeed facets of it exist already. Cuarón turns the spot light on ourselves and begs the question how would you react. It is as thought provoking as it is challenging and will continue to inspire debate for many years to come.
As a Blu-ray package this set is rather lacking. The picture and sound are right up there with the best but with such a poor product, no extras, not even a menu, one wonders why, when so much could have been made of it. However the film is such that for now this region free import is still worth a look in.
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