Collateral Blu-ray Review
'Collateral' is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p coding.
A pioneer of his craft, Mann was one of the early adopters of high definition photography and chose to capture all of the external and night time portions of this movie on Viper FilmStream High Definition cameras (which excel in low lighting conditions, perfect for shooting on the night time streets of L.A.). For the interior portions of the movie, Mann returns to regular film stock. It's quite obvious that several cameras were used when one views this movie on Blu-ray. The disjointed nature of the presentation can be a little off putting at times but once you get used to it, it forms part of the movie's charm and style. There are instances of digital noise throughout the darker portions but the depth and clarity to the night time city-scape scenes overcomes this gripe, providing a lot of detail that would not normally be possible with regular stock. That being said, this movie employed an early form of HD camerawork so don't expect 'The Dark Knight'.
While the outdoor portions have their merits and drawbacks, the indoor portions, for my money, look a lot clearer and sharper, with a lot more detail visible than I can previously recall. This is especially true of the nightclub scene, which provided very substantial depth. The image in general has a weight and solid believability to it, heightening the cinematic experience. Facial close-ups can provide some fine detail such as pores and facial hair and there are plenty of signs and other written text (such as car license plates) that are clearly legible. Clothing detail is adequate, with the fine fabric of Vincent's suit visible. The image can lose definition during the darker portions and although shot in HD, things can get distinctly soft around the edges. That being said the image is very stable with no nasty compression artefacts.
The colour palette is strong and vibrant, with Max's bold red and yellow taxi standing out in stark contrast to the dark surroundings. The various neon signs of L.A. provide plenty of vibrant shades and this aspect of the presentation was very pleasing to my eye. The contrast ratio is strong but really deep blacks are absent. This is due to the glow of the street lights, which was an intentional decision to give the impression that L.A. never sleeps. Mann also employs plenty of lighting techniques, which can lead to slightly overblown and dazzling whites on occasion. Shadow detail is very high, exposing a lot of detail in the gloom.
As mentioned, the majority of the scenes exude a nice depth but there were zero instances of that sought after three dimensional pop factor. I have compared this with a DVD version of the movie and the increase in detail is most definitely very noticeable and the improvement in picture quality is at times stunning. I have to admit though, that I do have a cheapo Chinese DVD copy! Still, I believe that this is the best that 'Collateral' has ever looked and while the use of HD cameras does has its shortcomings, its advantages also mean that this transfer comes recommended.
'Collateral' comes packed with a 5.1 dts HD Master Audio surround track.
Stereo reproduction is top notch, with almost constant activity for the duration. There are a few portions where Mann allows the soundstage to become subdued but a massive audio impact, such as those terrifically rendered gunshots, usually follows. The soundstage is gratifyingly expansive and really serves to fill the room when it explodes into action. The vocals, which are of core importance to the plot, are always crystal clear and locked to the centre channel.
The surround channels were a little underpowered for my liking but I believe that this is due to the sound engineering which Mann employs. However, during the action based portions, the entire soundstage comes to life with an almost jarring effect, such as during the wonderful jet/helicopter fly overs. The surrounds, partnering the front channels, produce terrifically full bodied echoed gunfire. Terrified patrons running for cover (during the nite-club scene) and glass shattering (during the scene in Annie's office) rotate around the listening position. These channels are also employed throughout the presentation to produce plenty of low level ambient effects. Disappointingly, the sub never really gets a chance to shine and although it contributes to a couple of the scenes, such as adding impact as Vincent stamps on an assailants' face and fires precision rounds from his glock (as well as Max's racing heartbeat), it never really plumbs the depths that other BD tracks have shown possible. The only exception was the powerful car flip segment, which was quite impressive.
The score is an eclectic mix of soul, jazz, funk and more modern numbers from the likes of Audioslave and Paul Oakenfold. Like the rest of the audio presentation, the score rises and falls in the mix in perfect harmony with the on screen happenings. Stereo reproduction is excellent, with crisp treble and nice mid range bass, a must for the jazz ensemble moments which feature dominating trumpets. There are also some original compositions and effects thrown into boot but these are sparse in comparison to the rest of the content. During the earlier portions, the surrounds are a little dormant but as we progress, a definite increase in surround bleed can be heard. The subwoofer never really comes to life with any degree of force but it does provide a nice accompaniment to the other channels.
Although there are portions where the track can seem somewhat lacking, this is how the director intended and this well engineered mix, which at times almost reaches demo material quality, receives a solid eight.
All of the extras that are available on this disc were previously available on the Special Edition DVD release of 'Collateral'. While the extras portion is well fleshed out, all of the features are disappointingly in standard definition, with no updated content for the BD release. That being said, at least the very impressive (as always) commentary track from Michael Mann is included. Exuding unbridled passion for his work, the astute and intelligent Mann provides a wealth of information and background knowledge regarding the movie. He extrapolates on plot concepts, expands on character traits/back-story and explains his directorial choices. This commentary track really is packed to the gills with worthwhile content and is a must listen for fans of the movie.
“City of Night: The Making of Collateral” (SD 40mins) - Stylishly presented, this feature takes a look at how the movie was put together. Cruise, Pinkett and Foxx add insight into their characters, with Mann commenting on characterisation in general and the actors' performance. There's lots of footage from the movie included to punctuate certain points. Mann discusses how the movie is put together, how the plot progresses and provides a blow by blow breakdown of some of the scenes, especially around the benefits of shooting in HD and the various complicated lighting choices. There's lots of fascinating b-roll, casting, stunt test and backstage footage, such as Cruise training with live ammo and Foxx speaking to cab drivers to get into character. The feature contains a lot of interesting stuff but there's a little too much content from the movie for my liking and there's definitely some spoilers included here. Foxx, coming from his comedy background, offers some humorous content on the set, which offers a break to the serious nature of the rest of the feature. Well worth a watch.
“Special Delivery” (SD 1min) - This short lived feature proves that Tom's low key look in this movie would be enough to make him anonymous to the general public. Rather pointless really.
Deleted Scene (SD 1min) - This deleted scene features a police helicopter as it attempts to keep up with Vincent's elusive nature, with optional director's commentary. The scene is of no real loss to the feature presentation and the commentary doesn't add much either.
Shooting on Location - Annie's Office (SD 2min) - Mann speaks over the closing scenes of the movie and the manner in which is uses the natural surroundings to the maximum effect (and again the low light merits of shooting in HD) .
Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx Rehearse (SD 4mins) - Featuring Cruise and Foxx as they rehearse scenes from the movie, this feature cleverly includes a split screen shot of the finished product.
Visual FX: MTA Train (SD 2min) - Exposing the green screen effects, this feature looks at how the final scene of the movie was constructed. I have to admit that the finished product looks fantastic and I had no idea that the background L.A. shots seen through the windows of the train were CGI effects until I watched this feature.
Trailers - Included here, for your viewing pleasure, is a theatrical and teaser trailer for the feature presentation. Both are in high definition.
'Collateral' was released in 2004 and was directed by Michael Mann. A craftsman of high calibre, Mann has once again assembled a stellar cast and produced a fantastic movie. Tom Cruise puts on the performance of his career (in my opinion) and is almost matched in his acting prowess by Jamie Foxx. The plot is intense, well constructed and really draws the audience as it progresses. The action content is high and the pacing is simply perfect. For my money this movie is one of Mann's best productions and comes highly recommended.
The transfer is sharp and detailed, exposing many facets that I had not previously noticed on the DVD release and is well worth the upgrade. The audio presentation is well engineered and full bodied, exploding into life with jarring precision during the action portions. The extras, which are a direct port from the two disc DVD edition, contain a couple of gems. This really is a very well put together disc and is a must for all fans of the movie.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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