Red Cliff Blu-ray Review
PictureRed Cliff arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p resolution encoded using the AVC codec and framed in its theatrically correct aspect ratio of 2.35:1
There is much to like about the image we are presented with. For starters, the colours spring from the screen with a genuine 3d pop. The rich red fabrics of flowing costumes are deep and vibrant yet never push beyond the realistic, they remain soft and gentle in their woven nature and unlike the stiff cardboard style robes of block colours that can plague such bold hues in period pieces. The gold ornate decorations have a wonderful sheen to them that glistens whilst still allowing detail to be apparent in the texture beneath this surface polish.
The landscape which these people inhabit is also perfectly recreated. When the horses descend the hill in slow motion, the grass seems painfully precise and the texture of the ground is just as one would expect it to be. The lush verdant mountain ranges populated with green trees look fresh and clear. When CGI is used, it can jar slightly as in all truthfulness I don't think there are many instances in modern film when it truly meshes to an unnoticeable degree, but pleasing in this instance it fits in well with the rest of the piece. There is an air of artificiality that in a more grounded work would perhaps be more of a juxtaposition, but instead the opening sweep down a cliff face to reveal the name of the film and suchlike all feels well within the realm of this almost ethereal tale.
Contrast is good and the depth of field has a genuine effect in drawing the eye during the key battle scenes when overhead shots are used. Grain occasionally becomes a touch inconsistent but generally is not distracting and simply a healthy amount visible. The end result of all these facets is an image that is more akin to a painting of sorts. It is punchy and vibrant when necessary but still holds onto a sound amount of delicacy and detail that stop it pushing towards the cartoonish. The one part of this visual display which might grate is the dreaded use of the Mei Ah watermark that unfortunately appears every fifteen minutes or so. It only holds for a few seconds and is within the top border (top left of the screen to be precise) but it takes the viewer out of the spell that they're under and annoyingly brings us back to focussing on something other than the film itself. How much of a fly in the ointment this is will be entirely down to the individual and their set-up, however it is still far from ideal. Personally I wasn't too maligned by its protrusion into my viewing experience as I was far more interested with the rest of the visual delights on display. In summation, a bold image with detail and finesse that simply comes with a caveat of warning.
SoundThe audio side of offerings is well fleshed out with three lossless tracks to choose from; LPCM 7.1, DTS HD Master Audio 7.1 and finally Dolby Digital TrueHD 7.1. The phrase “spoilt for choice” comes to mind.
I personally concentrated upon the DTS HD Master Audio track but I did dip my toe into the other two for the sake of reference. In truth, it doesn't much matter which option you plump for as all three deliver a fine treat for your ears. The sweeping score was by far the highlight for me as it had that true rousing effect that was needed. It is handled impeccably, having just enough depth to swell from the speakers and expand into the soundscape
without forcing its way too far and overshadowing the subtlety on display. In many ways, this delicacy comes and goes as the film has periods of thundering hooves and shouting soldiers that is nothing more than the LFE kicking out a statement of intent - do not take it lightly. The host of troops all moving in unison needed a powerful display of bass when their feet marched in time with each other and it is clear that this was deemed a key feature of the track/s.
Sometimes the force of the bass can become a little uneven as nearer objects to the screen can occasionally not deliver the impact that one might associate with an experience that is to truly hit the viewer but on the whole it is well rounded and tight with some real strength behind it. Rears come into effect when the arrows start flying and they are well utilised though lack some of the steerage one would expect from a similar Hollywood blockbuster. Dialogue is crisp and clear though some may have qualms with the dubbing that was needed, as at times it can be far from subtle, however this overlaying sound fits in well with the rest of the mix and doesn't jar in terms of quality, pitch or tone. Whichever way, it is not the track which is at fault with regards this slight annoyance but rather the necessity to dub in the first place. Overall, the three tracks offer a fine audio display that can seem a little rough around the edges occasionally, but far exceeds other similar Chinese discs and compliments the on screen bedlam as well as the quieter moments.
ExtrasTrailer - 1080p - 2:19
Interviews - 480p - approximately 33 minutes
Split ito several sections, this consists of interviews with Tony Leung, Hu Jun, Zhan Feng Yi, Chang Chen, Lin Chi Ling and John Woo. Unfortunately these carry no subtitles so I cannot comment on their content and its worth.
26 images from the film (with a few from the sequel hidden within as well), the framing is far too small to get a good view of the pictures.
Beijing Press Conference - 480p - (1) 7:21, (2) 10:15
Split into two sections this press conference lacks subtitles.
Hong Kong Press Conference - 480p - (1) 2:16, (2) 4:03
As per the Beijing press conference, this also lacks subtitles.
Hong Kong Premiere and Press Conference - 480p - 6:22
Again, the lack of subtitles and my lack of knowledge of Chinese languages precludes me from delving into this feature.
A healthy set of extras that will no doubt please those with the ability to understand Chinese, for the rest it remains a mystery.
VerdictRed Cliff stands as a film that any fan of Eastern cinema must witness. It is not only a key time in the career of John Woo, but also that of the Chinese film industry as a whole, being the most expensive film from the country to date. It is immensely ambitious in scale and thankfully, the purported £50 million budget and 1000 Chinese soldiers drafted in to help with the battle scenes have not gone to waste. Woo is not only back to his previous best but also seems to have learnt a trick or two in the interim years since his departure from his native shores many moons ago. He brings with him a more refined style that has allowed for a greater delicacy and increased presence to female characters.
In essences, this film will no doubt be judged by the quality of its mammoth battles, but there is more for those who seek to delve a little deeper. The carnage is perfectly orchestrated but that is only a mere piece of the whole that has sprung from the classic text upon which it is based. The political wranglings, Machiavellian plans and sheer human emotion are given time to breath and are just as complex by the end as one of the militaristic general's battle formations. The extras are negligible for the non-Chinese speaking viewer but that cannot be helped. What is of more importance is that both the image and audio more than pull their weight.
Given that this title is mooted to be amalgamated with its sequel and shortened for its Western release, I fail to see why any fan of either Woo or quality Eastern cinema wouldn't want this in their collection. It may not contain the actual battle of Red Cliff itself, but it is a vision that lacks little in the way of impact and event.
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