Léon Remastered Blu-ray Review
Léon gets professional with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack
It's hard to believe that it's been 22 years since Léon was first released.Luc Besson's film of a child-like hitman and his relationship with an orphaned young girl has gone on to become something of a modern classic. The film was partly inspired by Jean Reno's 'cleaner' character in Besson's earlier film Nikita and it's now impossible to detach the French actor from the role that made him an international star. The film also marked the debut of a precocious talent in the form of a twelve year-old Natalie Portman as Mathilda. It's the relationship between Leon and Mathilda that forms the core of the film, although it drifts into slightly more controversial waters in the longer director's cut. Mathilda's age was undoubtedly a cause for concern in the UK and the US, where the film was retitled The Professional.The situation wasn't helped by Besson going out with a rather young girl himself but presumably people are more relaxed about that sort of thing in France. That uncomfortable aspect of the story aside, and in fairness Leon might be an adult but he is mentally as much of a child as Mathilda, what remains is a superb action film with Besson delivering some excellent set pieces. There's also a great supporting cast, with Gary Oldman hamming it up as the world's most unlikely DEA agent. After all these years the film has grown in stature and is probably the best of Besson's oeuvre. Léon is funny, charming, moving and exciting - so if you haven't seen it yet, what have you been doing for the past 22 years?
Picture QualityThis Region A locked Blu-ray of Léon uses a 1080/24p transfer with an AVC codec and is presented in the film's 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The film was originally shot on 35mm film using anamorphic lenses and a new 4K master was created from the original camera negative. As with a number of other recent Sony Pictures reissues from 4K masters, the studio presumably plans an Ultra HD Blu-ray release at some point but if you can play Region A discs, is it worth picking up now?
This new disc looks great but the previous release wasn't bad either.
That rather depends on whether you already own Léon on Blu-ray or plan to buy any future Ultra HD release because if the answer to either of those questions is yes, then you might want to wait. The previous Blu-ray release already had an excellent picture, so the improvements to be found on this release are minimal. However the new transfer is undoubtedly the best that Léon has looked, with plenty of detail, accurate colours and natural skin tones. The image appears very film-like, with a healthy sheen of grain, whilst the transfer is free of any digital artefacts, unnecessary processing and banding. The black levels are excellent, with good shadow detail, and the whites suitably bright, resulting in a decent dynamic range. Overall this is a great looking picture and any softness in the image is a result of the anamorphic lenses used in the original photography, rather than any failing in the transfer.
Sound QualityLéon was originally released theatrically with Dolby Digital and SDDS soundtracks and previous Blu-ray releases have all boasted great audio. Sony Pictures have now created a new Dolby Atmos mix, something that they have doing for a lot of catalogue titles in anticipation of future Ultra HD Blu-ray releases. We reviewed this Region A locked Blu-ray using a full 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos configuration with upward-firing speakers.
The new Atmos soundtrack isn't as immersive as Sony's other recent remixes.
Whilst this new Dolby Atmos mix for Léon generally sounds great, it isn't as immersive as other Atmos remixes that we've reviewed and ultimately we found it slightly disappointing. There are moments where the sound designers utilise the overhead speakers, primarily for explosion, gunshots and one scene where the overhead sprinklers go off. However there is frequently very little feeling of overhead sounds or immersion. That's not to say that the soundtrack isn't good because it is, with plenty of directional effects being steered around the soundstage and some fairly active surround channels. Dialogue remains clear, the music is well integrated and there's plenty of bass. However the mix just feels flat when compared to the better Dolby Atmos remixes and thus not a good enough reason to upgrade.
ExtrasThis new Region A locked Blu-ray release of Léon includes all the extras previously found on the 10th anniversary DVD release, so they're in standard definition. The extras are quite good but it would have been nice to get some new extras to coincide with the film's 20th anniversary.
10 Year Retrospective: Cast and Crew Look Back (SD, 25:10) – Ten years after the film wrapped, the cast and crew look back at the making of Léon. The documentary was actually produced ten years ago for a DVD release, so perhaps we’re due a 20th anniversary catch-up.
Jean Reno: The Road to Léon (SD, 12:25) – An interview with the French star, where he talks about growing up in Casablanca, becoming an actor, and his experiences making Léon.
Natalie Portman: Starting Young (SD, 13:50) – This interview with Natalie Portman covers how she got cast in Léon and her experiences making the film.
Fact Track (Extended version only) - This fact track overlays text during the running of the film about its production and other interesting trivia. If you use a 2.35:1 projection screen, it’s worth noting that the text overlaps with the black bar at the bottom of the screen.
Theatrical Trailer (SD, 02:25)
Blu-ray VerdictLéon might be 22 years old but it remains a fresh and exciting film, with great central performances from Jean Reno and Natalie Portman. The latter in particular is a revelation, delivering a performance far beyond her years. There's also a fun supporting cast, with Gary Oldman dialling the nutter dial up to eleven. Whilst certain aspects of the central pair's relationship might seem uncomfortable these days, the film remains funny, moving, charming and action-packed.
This new Blu-ray disc feels less of an upgrade than Sony's other recent Dolby Atmos reissues.
This Region A locked Blu-ray release of Léon includes the theatrical and director's cuts using new transfers from 4K sources but given that the previous Blu-ray release already looked very good, there's little room for improvement. The big reason for buying Léon would be the addition of a Dolby Atmos soundtrack but unfortunately it doesn't include much in the way of overhead effects, making it less immersive than Sony's other recent reissues. There are no new extras but those included are quite good, making this new Blu-ray release a nice package. However since the 4K remaster and the new Atmos soundtrack were undoubtedly created for an upcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray release, it might be worth waiting.
You can buy Léon on Blu-ray here
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