PictureRed Cliff II is brought to us on Blu-ray with a 1080p image encoded using the AVC codec and framed in a theatrically correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
Understandably, with this being a continuation of the same production as the first film, the visuals are essentially the same. This is far from a bad thing though as they were some of the most striking on the format. The same vibrant, rich palette of colours is used, at times giving the feel of a painting. Costumes once again are picked out beautifully and the landscape that surrounds the epic battle and ingenious machinations is just as stunning. The area in which this image differs from that of the first is twofold. For starters, the night time naval conflict, swathed with fire, produces a startling juxtaposition to the daylight sorties of its predecessor. Engulfed in flames and reflections upon the water's surface, it is impressive to witness.
Once dawn breaks and the early morning sun gentle diffuses through the swirling dust, the second half of the final action sequence presents a perfect balance, with contrast remaining as strong as ever. The depth of field is always high, as is the level of detail on display. Fine grain is lightly layered on the image but never to the point of distraction. Most pleasing, especially for those who were put off by the one caveat of caution highlighted with regards to the quality of the first film's image, is that the Mei Ah watermark is nowhere to be seen. I felt it impossible to give a score of 9 to an image that, though ticking most boxes for reference quality, distracted the viewer every fifteen minutes. Now the blight of that eyesore has been eradicated, this must surely stand as true demo material. Crisp, clean, vibrant, full of detail and yet still balanced.
SoundAs with the picture, sound options are the same as the first instalment, with three lossless tracks spoiling us for choice; LPCM 7.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and Dolby Digital TrueHD 7.1, all in Mandarin.
Once again whichever option is chosen, the results don't wildly differ, with all giving a suitable feast for the ears. The score swells within the mix and weaves in and out of the action, building and falling with a perfect ebb and flow. The high frequency noises of stringed instruments and weapons clashing are perfectly pitched but not to the detriment of making the mix unbalanced or tinny. The LFE enters the fray once action commences and the impact of a catapults load, the explosion of incendiaries and the throaty cheers of throngs of soldiers intent on victory are all tight and with a balanced punch to them.
Dialogue remains clear throughout the duration, with the only sticking point being that of Leung's dubbing, still sounding nothing like him. Rears are used when necessary with some surprising subtlety at times which gives the suitable surround effects listeners crave. All areas of the audio feel tuned to a level that makes the constituent parts symbiotic in their relationship, with nothing pushing beyond the others. Overall it is an offering that gives us the pleasure of great range that fills the room and produces a clear and taut experience.
ExtrasTrailer - 1080p - 1:51
Self explanatory. A fast paced montage of various action oriented clips which unfortunately carries no subtitles.
Teaser - 1080p - 1:17
Essentially another trailer that, although shorter in length, assumes a slower pace than the first. Again, this lacks subtitles.
Several bite sized interviews for each of the central figures involved with the film; Tony Leung (2:33, 1:17, 1:32), Zhang Fengyi (3:47, 2:07), Chang Chen (2:37, 3:22), Lin Chi-ling (2:43, 3:12), Zhao Wei (3:42, 3:52) and finally John Woo (3:07, 4:58). Presented in 480p, it also carries no English subtitles.
Eight pictures displayed within a frame that cuts the size of the screen down for decorative purposes, mocking up the bottom of the image to appear like a battlefield's ground strewn with arrows.
Hardly a conclusive set of extras, but given the length of the features overall and the three lossless tracks I wonder how much spare space was left on the disc in provision for them. These have to score fairly low because of the meagre number and lack of imagination put into them, but I can't totally write them off as contained within the interviews may in fact be titbits that could prove interesting to fans with the ability to speak Chinese.
VerdictWhat could have been little more than a plodding finale that dragged its feet until we finally arrived at the battle to which this film owes its name, instead holds up as a fitting accompaniment to the first chapter of the story. It doesn't maintain the same tight, balanced pacing of its predecessor, but what it lacks in that department it more than makes up for in terms of entertainment. Whether it be moments of Machiavellian mind games, light hearted whimsical comedy or ruthless combat, there is something here for most viewers. It is all combined in a manner that is arguably the signal of Woo's maturity as a film maker, having a balance to it, holding back somewhat from ludicrous machismo. This is still clearly a film in his style though, with a story that places great emphasis on male bravado, insurmountable odds, black and white morality and the inclusion of fluttering doves, it simply avoids the high camp of the likes of Face Off and presents more rounded female characters and a degree of subtlety.
Disc wise, the sound and picture are certainly worthy of equal praise, the image is bold and full of detail and the audio matches this standard. Extras are on the slight side but when you have such a fine presentation of a 140 minute film as well as three lossless audio tracks, to quibble too much over such a detail would surely be churlish. Overall this is a fine package for a film that not only ends the story started with the original Red Cliff , but also complements it perfectly.
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