Universal Soldier, Cold War-style
Ice Soldiers Blu-ray Review
For a straight-to-home-formats release, Ice Soldiers offers promise with a reasonably decent Universal Soldier-derived premise and suitably creepy Arctic setting, but fails to capitalise on either.The story attempts to ostensibly ground itself in fact, taking us back to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and telling us that a small Russian plane crashed in the Arctic, leaving three bodies in the ice to be found by scientists at a local outpost. After a slaughter – and a rape – the frozen soldiers once again disappear into the tundra, only to be discovered half a Century later by another group, this time with one member taking a particular interest in the genetically modified super-soldiers.
This could have so very easily made for a dark and moody Universal Soldier rip-off, with an unusual setting, surprisingly decent scoring, and with Dominic Purcell taking on suitably ambiguous hero duties, but the filmmakers simply don’t follow things through to their natural conclusions. Purcell isn’t really leading action hero calibre. He was woefully miscast as the villain – Dracula, no less – in the disappointing third Blade instalment, and briefly held his own for several seasons of the paper-thin but surprisingly popular Prison Break, before settling in on a slow glide into STV hell.In Ice Soldiers he doesn’t offer anything you could even remotely call acting, but, had this gone down the full-tilt UniSol route, he wouldn’t have needed to.
Unfortunately, there’s simply no action on offer. From the brief opening slaughter to the subsequent conflicts – including a couple of lame fights and an uneventful snowmobile chase – the film falls down at every possible opportunity on the action front. And, arguably, it was the only thing that they had to get right. Every single moment where it could have pumped some adrenaline into the proceedings, it instead attempts to simply define the word anticlimactic.
It’s a shame. The moody, atypical setting – reminiscent of The Thing – and the frozen super-soldier premise could have made for a decent enough low budget actioner, but the film instead sleeps its way through as just passably entertaining, average in every possible way, and seemingly incapable of following through with the promise of action on the ice.
What Is Ice Soldiers Blu-ray Picture QualityIce Soldiers hits UK Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with the same very-good-but-not-quite-exceptional video presentation that adorned its preceding US Region A-locked counterpart, again courtesy of Sony.
Detail is generally very good indeed, although far better in close-ups than in the longer shots, the tighter frame showcasing skin details, clothing weaves and set textures. Digital defects are largely non-existent – edge enhancement never rears its ugly head, and DNR application has been kept within acceptable levels, but there is a hint of banding, although it’s largely acceptable over the course of the proceedings.
Despite its low budget - obviously the film had no chance of competing with the picture-perfect blockbusters that Sony usually delivers - this is a commendable presentation.
The image manages the bright stark whites of the Arctic tundra very efficiently, maintaining a decent contrast level, and allowing the colour tones within the admittedly limited palette to present themselves fairly accurately. Black levels are strong enough without allowing for too much loss of shadow detail. Aside from a hint of softness that masks the image sporadically, and the equally fleeting aforementioned banding, this is a very good video presentation.
How Does Ice Soldiers Blu-ray SoundThe audio is even more impressive, bolstered by an engaging score which, if you were to close your eyes, might even make you think you’re watching another, better, more tense and far more action-packed offering.
Afforded a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 accompaniment – again, undoubtedly the exact same track that was used for the US release – dialogue is given keen, clear and coherent presentation across the fronts and centre channels, taking precedence over the rest of the proceedings whenever appropriate, although this is admittedly far from a dialogue-centric movie. Effects occasionally ignite the sound stage, from sporadic explosions to gunshots, but are mostly of the atmospheric variety, reflecting the on-screen events reasonably accurately. It’s a surprisingly well-designed sound-scape, although the trump card has yet to be played.
Close your eyes and listen to the score and you might even think you’re watching a far better, more action-packed offering.
The score is easily the track’s best element, taking a dominant stance throughout the proceedings, and yielding a fair amount of weight to boot, dragging the LFE channel into the bargain and providing the surrounds with plenty to do. It’s a far better score than the film deserves, and certainly enhances the piece, although it does give you the impression that things are far more exciting than they actually are, onscreen.
Ice Soldiers Blu-ray ExtrasNothing.
Is Ice Soldiers Blu-ray Worth BuyingWith a moody, atypical Arctic setting, and a Universal Soldier-derivative set-up, Ice Soldiers could have at least been a halfway decent STV release (look at Universal Soldier: Regeneration and Day of Reckoning) but it fails to capitalise even on this fleeting potential, and delivers an end result which subsists on mood and music, but is completely devoid of memorable action.
This Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release at least boasts very good video and audio, even if there are - not so surprisingly - absolutely no extras.
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