Man On Fire Blu-ray Review
PictureThe disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.4:1 transfer that is encoded with AVC MPEG-4 @ 29 Mbps codec. During my research for this title I had a look through my original review and was surprised that I'd given top marks for both picture and sound, something that only the truly remarkable can get. With this in mind I popped the disc into the PS3, upscaled and re-watched a couple of key scenes to reacquaint myself. I was right to award the marks I had, outstanding AV quality from the SD. So I had high hopes for this Blu-ray for when it spun in the player. I was rewarded with a rich, lush picture, well detailed with deep colours and solid blacks.
To take the colours first, Scott does uses a variety of film stocks so colours can be over blown, stretched, bold, bleached and washed, but each is represented faithfully and shine from the screen. Taking the 'normal' film stock as standard the colours reach a new depth in definition, greens especially are breathtaking to behold. Skin tones are rich and deep, Washington's is so delicate and yet so deep. There is no bleed or wash unless it is intended to be there. This is helped by the setting of brightness and contrast that give rise to some immensely deep blacks that really add to the depth of the picture. Shadow detail is not lost either, although the blacks don't quite have that lustre that I've seen before.
Detail is wonderful too, plenty of edges and loads of distance. Building detail to skin defects; all show a pin point clarity. A number of smaller, almost incidental scenes show some tremendous detail; very early on when Casey is first driving Pita there is a few seconds scene that pans from the car on the right to show a number of men sweeping up leaves, the clarity of the image, each individual leaf or broom strand is amazing. Also of note is a shot when Rayburn is in the FBI office, he is sitting way back in the distance yet you can still make out each individual crag in Walken's face. Establishing shots of the shanty village or the city itself are as clear as always and street signs are absolutely defined and readable.
The print itself is of pristine quality, there are no defects anywhere to be seen. Digitally there are no compression artefacts nor is there any edge enhancement. Grain and print flashes are only evident as part of the film during the multiple camera and stocks used, all are represented clearly and lush.
This is a truly lovely looking picture, yet I can't help but compare it to the SD version; even though I know it's not strictly speaking fair. Yes the colours are much more vibrant, yes the detail is clearer, in some places much so, but it is not that much of an improvement over the outstanding quality of the SD. Take for example the scenes I describe above, all are represented incredibly well, even down the readable street signs. Throws into context how good SD can be when authored well and upscaled. So is this Blu-ray a dip in quality since the picture is not that much of an improvement, or does it just go to prove what consumers are saying about the need for HD? Well, the picture certainly is not a dip in quality, in fact it is absolutely first rate and my reference score reflects that, but as to that other question ......
SoundThree sound tracks to choose, from the ubiquitous Fox English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, that the PS3 still can't do anything with and French and Spanish English Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Listening to the downmixed DTS core track is still a thrill though. First up bass. It has wonderfully defined bass, from the score to the gunshots and explosions, there is plenty to rattle the furniture and take the wind from your lungs. It's not a thick mess though, it's well defined, clear and precise. On top of this is a well realised mid section and top end too, this is especially true for the score which comes across to really fill the room. Separation is amazing, a huge, wide sound field with plenty of ambient effects. Taking one of the scenes above, when the camera pans from car to leaf sweepers, the sound pans with you, from car and street noise on the right to sweeping, wind and leaf rustling to the left; the scene is a perfect melt of audio visual excellence. There is hardly a time when the surrounds are not in use, the ambience fills the room from street noise to birds. I particularly liked the way the score was used, when Casey puts a CD on and lays getting drunk, the sound mix separates into CD, score, foley and the sound of madness, all distinctly layered and coming across with a powerful resonance.
The action sequences are well heard with plenty of surround action to really place you in the centre of the action, tyre squeals, helicopters, gun shots, explosion debris all are music to the ears. Dialogue was always clear and precise, sounded very natural and was never drowned out by the action.
Again comparing to the 5.1 DTS track of the SD there was an improvement, the bass was far better defined and more precise, the separation was wider but the dynamics were much the same. Yes it is an improvement, but not quite the step up one might imagine, now this could have to do with the downmixed track only having double the bitrate of the SD and that the true lossless track will significantly improve upon it, but, you know, somehow I doubt that.....
ExtrasFox have once again gone all out to give us a few trailers as the extras package. Considering the wealth of extra material available for this film and presented on the double disc SD this is a rather poor show from Fox, but nevertheless what we've come to expect.
VerdictMan on Fire is a firm favourite of mine, a powerful drama rich in characterisation and emotion. Watching it is a rewarding experience and one cannot help but be drawn into the plight and the vengeance. And it is because I like the film so much that I am in a quandary about this disc.....
As a Blu-ray package Fox have released the very bare minimum. The picture and sound are breathtaking in the clarity and presentation but interestingly are not such a significant improvement over the upscaled two disc, stacked to the gills with extras, SD. So this begs the question, who is going to want to upgrade? Perhaps those that have the ability to decode the DTS-HD...? Everyone else could conceivably be quite happily. And it's down to Fox for releasing such a barebones disc. Personally, I'm such a sucker for the new format, though, that this is my preferred version and the one that will be spun from now on. Take from that what you will .....
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