Flags of our Fathers Blu-ray Review
PictureThe disc has a theatrically correct widescreen 2.4:1 1080p transfer that is VC-1 encoded. One word springs to mind when I describe this picture; wow. First up and what stands out the most is the detail, be it the CGI ships making their own waves in the Pacific Ocean, the clouds in the sky, the threads of individual uniforms, skin, smoke, metallic reflections from rifles, all are pristine in their clarity. The long shots overlooking the island from the mountain top are postcard clear. Colour-wise, Eastwood and Tom Stern the cinematographer opt for a very washed-out pallet for the battle sequences and rather muted tones for everything else, meaning colours themselves aren’t the bold, striking affairs one might associate with reference material. But don’t be fooled, each colour is rich and full-bodied, there is no wash or bleed, and their muted tones fit with the sombre nature of the film. But where the film really shines is with the blacks; brightness and contrast are set to give beautiful rich deep blacks that just go on and on into the picture, with absolutely no detail lost in the shadows. The original print is as clean as a whistle, free from any form of damage, though there was a smattering of grain, this actually helped the picture. Digitally I spotted no compression problems, maybe just the faintest whiff of edge enhancement, in fact the only problem I encountered with this picture was some rough edges around some of the green screen work, atop the fake mountain top springs to mind, but this is not a fault with the transfer as such, just an observation of how HD can show up what are insignificant defects on a standard release. A top, top picture.
SoundIf I thought the picture was good, I was blown away by the sound mix. There are three tracks to choose from (excluding the hard of hearing); English and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and, reviewed here, English PCM 5.1. Same word for the sound as for the picture; wow. It is a fully immersive sound track, effects coming from all around the room, this is especially true of the battle scenes, where each shot and explosion is given its own resonance, essentially sounding different, you really feel as though you are in the thick of it all. One scene, when the Navy first starts to bombard Iwo Jima with its heavy guns, we start below deck and first hear the shots; there is a low, and I mean really low thump followed by a trickle; exactly how you imagine a shot would sound if inside a ship, it is that good. Once on the island itself the mix assaults your ears from everywhere, there is never a moment’s peace. But all this action is counted perfectly by the other score elements, dialogue and music; each are clear and precise and given directionality when needed. There is a full tonal range used, dialogue sound perfectly natural when spoken, and again assaults from all direction during the battle scenes. Cheering from the crowds on the war bond tour is loud and near overbearing, but never drowns out the action happening. The score interweaves between the action and dialogue to give a perfect match. It is little wonder that of the films numerous awards many are for the sound.
First up is an introduction to the film by Clint Eastwood where he describes the plot of the film, his inspiration and ethos for making it. It runs too short for any real depth beyond that of the general tone of film making, filled with actual WWII photographs and some behind the scenes shots it is exactly what is says an introduction.
Next up is a series of featurettes that are, really, all part of one big documentary covering the making of the film, sadly lacking a play all function these remain independent chapters.
First up is Words on the Page, which focuses on and is told by James Bradley where he gives a very frank and personal talk on his fathers own unspoken history and his discovering the information that lead to the writing of his book and ultimately this film. It is as touching and as moving as it is informative.
Next up is Six Brave Men which chronicles the story of the six soldiers that hoisted the flag in that picture as told by archive footage, photographs, film footage and the actors themselves. It is quite poignant and informative, and all speak with a great deal of respect for the project and the real people they portray. As a companion piece to the film itself this extra is very moving.
The Making of an Epic is a making of featurette, combines interviews with cast and crew along with behind the scenes photographs and film along with actual war time pictures. Nothing too revolutionary here, but the information comes fairly thick and fast telling the making of the film from pre production to editing; it is streaks above the self congratulatory ‘entertainment’ channel self promotional making of features that seem to pollute discs nowadays.
Raising the Flag is a very brief look at the films rendition of the monumental moment that defines the film and Americas involvement in the war and how to make it as authentic as possible.
Following this is Visual Effects and looks at all the various elements added to a frame to bring the battle scenes to life. Comparisons between empty plates and finished film are astonishing and it goes to show just how much detail was used.
Looking into the Past is a historical look at the events depicted in the film made up of original stock footage and the narration that went with it. This is fascinating viewing and tops off a terrific extras package.
Finally the Theatrical Trailer rounds out this disc.
VerdictFlags of Our Fathers is a glorious film that not only thrills and moves the audience, it leaves one thinking too. Its impact is not diminished by its overall tone, one of truth; how war affects a nation right down to the individuals that fight it. As a Blu-ray package the outstanding picture and sound are backed up by an equally informative extras package.
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