PictureA thin smattering of grain keeps Layer Cake's 1080p 2.40:1 image looking satisfyingly filmic without it becoming distracting. The source print is in excellent shape and the transfer is very good indeed. Colours are full and entrancing. The film has an extremely stylish palette that takes gritty and realistic photography and emotionally enhances it with bold primaries that stimulate or isolate. Despite such intense vibrancy, the deep reds and blues on offer never suffer from over-saturation or smearing, but remain thick and luxuriant. Skin-tones are wonderful, too. If you don't believe me, just check out the memorable scene of Tammy slipping into something more comfortable. And the ladies can savour the incredible azure cast of Craig's famous baby-blues. Blood is splashily vivid and bright, too and whites can dazzle without warping-out - check out the Duke's get-up!
Blacks are spot-on and contrast is consistent. Interiors display great shadows and the marvellous use of lighting is afforded a rich and captivating hue, from the subdued cafes, nightclubs and apartments, to the sunlit verandas of the country estate. Detail is excellent, the pin-sharp image allowing for all manner of fixtures and fittings and assorted set-dressings to be exhibited with clarity and distinction. Look at the rows of books in Eddie Temple's library, or the smoke-diffused bar during the flashbacks. Distance shots remain clear and full of natural-looking polish - the airborne tracking of Duke's 4X4, the street scenes or the time spent at the club, the view down the motorway or from X's POV as he is held upside down over the edge of a roof, for example, all benefit from a picture that reveals detail racked up behind detail as a profound depth to the image is produced. Three-dimensionality is at a premium, as well, with many great images brought vividly out from the screen - particularly shots of X just walking the streets or staring reflectively into space.
On the downside, there are occasional moments when the high resolution seems to skip portions of the image, with sides of individual shots looking a tad softer than the main subject. But, overall, Layer Cake boasts a great transfer that exhibits very little in the way of edge enhancement and no artefacts or noise.
SoundPresented with both PCM Uncompressed and DD 5.1 tracks, it should come as no major surprise that the lossless audio wins out. However, the surprise we do get is that the track is actually extremely good, considering that Layer Cake is not exactly the most bombastic of movies. The sound design has been incredibly well-produced, with the attention to detail and realism paramount and very successful. Ambience is convincingly projected from the rears and directionality is top notch, with a wide soundfield across the front and much movement steered sublimely from speaker to speaker, such as the steel door sliding from left to right and vehicles travelling from side to the other. This effect is carried on behind you as well, with the track doing a fine job of placing in the centre of the onscreen activity at all times.
Gunshots have real weight to them, punching violently through the air with an aggressively metallic crunch. But listen out for the tremendous bass levels that bolster every bone-smashing impact and the effect of the high-velocity sniper rounds that Dragan puts down around X and the unwisely nicknamed Lucky. And then there is the aural splendour (if you can call it that) of X getting his face repeatedly rammed into the rock-hard contents of a freezer, which really sounds up close and painfully personal.
Dialogue is always clear and spatially involving. But there is a slight problem with lip-synching during a couple of verbally aggressive scenes - both involving Daniel Craig - with the most prominent being when X has a shouty confrontation with the Duke and his coked-up slapper mouthpiece, Slasher. This, however, does not affect the overall majority of the track.
The music is given a lush warmth that sweeps in from the speakers with Lisa Gerrard's hypnotic vocals sounding fantastically real and layered for the haunting arias she performs, and the sizzling songs, such as Joe Cocker's “Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood”, The Cult's “She Sells Sanctuary” and the awesome “Gimme Shelter” from Mick Jagger simply bubbling with audio gloss. The nightclub scene when X first meets Tammy is wonderfully atmospheric and throbs with well-produced and realistic music and hubbub.
A great PCM track, folks, that only narrowly misses the 9 out of 10 slot.
ExtrasThe Commentary with Matthew Vaughn and writer J.J. Connelly is pretty decent, even if they spend a fair bit of time discussing the actual filming of certain scenes and how shots were set up. Guy Ritchie gets a mention or two, and the pair discuss in rather bland and unexciting fashion, how the production came into being and how the original novel was adapted for the screen. There is a fair amount of information on offer regarding the characters and their motivations, and the intricate plot is given plenty of dissection, courtesy of Connelly who is determined to explain the ins and outs of it all, how it all fits together and what, inevitably, had to be chopped.
A fairly in-depth Q & A session with Matthew Vaughn and Daniel Craig is good value and covers much of the same material as the commentary but with a bit more spontaneity and intelligent, well thought-out replies. Recorded at the National Film Theatre, this half-hour quizzing of the main talents behind Layer Cake, once again, chronicles the story's transition from book to film and the intense characterisation and dark-hued themes. It is good stuff, benefiting from interesting questions and revealing answers from a producer taking his first stab at directing and a reliable actor making the leap to leading man.
The six-minute Making Of Layer Cake is disposable EPK, though. Offering little that hasn't already been covered, this featurette is just too light and fluffy to cut through any but the top layers of this particular cake. Intercut with footage from the film, we have interviews with Craig, Vaughn, Connelly, Sienna Miller and Jamie Foreman (who plays the angsty, pent-up Duke) during the production.
The selection of Deleted Scenes, although generous in number and running for about twenty minutes, don't really add too much to the film and it is easy to see why they received the chop. Vaughn and Connelly supply commentaries over the snipped scenes but their critique is mainly of the “cut-for-pacing” type of reasoning. A couple of Alternate Endings are also revealed and these, whilst fun to see, are definitely not in the same league as the one the makers finally opted for. Still, this is an entertaining batch of extra footage.
Although not great in number, the bonus features for Layer Cake offer gold dust for its fans. A commentary from Craig and the cast would have been the icing on this cake, though.
VerdictAn excellent film, folks, and one of my favourites from this decade (so far). Darkly comic, stylishly executed and played majestically by an electrifying cast. After I foolishly ignored this at the flicks and then hung about for an age before catching up with it on DVD, I watched it again and again when I finally bit the bullet. Simply recommending it to people wasn't good enough - I felt the urge to drag them round to my place, sit them down and force the film upon them ... and then watch their reactions when certain developments took place! Such was the addictive impact Layer Cake exerted on me. Gangland thrillers are actually way down my list, but when they are this good, they deserve a place on anybody's “watch often” shelf.
This Blu-ray package is a good, strong one, as well. Most of the extras from the SD release are present and correct and they are a fine bunch, overall. The AV quality is thoroughly top-notch, with a simply terrific picture and very effective PCM audio. In short, a fantastic release and I can't recommend it enough.
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