Shanghai Blu-ray Review
Shanghai comes to Region A-locked Hong Kong Blu-ray complete with a 1080p High Definition video rendition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 1.78:1. Detail is generally very good, with clarity throughout, but there is a slight soft-focus sheen to the whole production which, I assume, was done intentionally to enhance the whole period ‘Casablanca’ style – and it works quite well, but does result in a slight drop in fine detail. There’s no noticeable grain, per se, just the aforementioned soft sheen, and there are no signs of digital defects, edge enhancement or any other niggling anomalies. The colour scheme is dominated by yellows and browns – again to maintain the period tone – with rich and deep mahogany browns, generally good skin tones and solid black levels. Few colours stand out, as is only intentional, with just a couple of noticeable exceptions – like the red on the Nazi armbands. Overall it’s a solid presentation that remains marginally restricted from what I assume to be the stylistic choices of the Director.
To accompany the movie we get two different flavours of soundtrack – a Dolby Digital TrueHD 7.1 offering and a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It should be noted that the movie is almost entirely English-language. All of the participants speak English, with only a few brief lines spoken in other languages. The trouble is that there are no subtitles for these exceptions, and so you have to be quick to switch on the optional English subtitles so that you may fully comprehend the dialogue during these moments.
Dialogue is clear and coherent throughout, largely dominating the frontal array wherever appropriate, with the narration coming across as particularly potent. The effects are universally well-observed, with the surrounds utilised far more often than you would have expect, either for keen atmospheric touches – observation of footsteps, or clinking glasses being toasted – of louder, penetrating gunshots and screams. The punchy but at time brooding score kicks in to provide further surround use, stepping up a notch during anything even remotely action-orientated but still maintaining an air of malevolence across the background during the quieter moments, even grumbling with a little low-level bass.
All we get here is a Trailer for the main movie.
I really am surprised that they did not make a bigger deal out of this movie, and that there isn’t even a US release date pending. It certainly makes for a nice companion-piece to Casablanca, with a similar setting and identical time-frame, and a comparable narrative about the Resistance movement in a place that the German war machine (here embodied by the Japanese Kempeitai) is on the brink of overrunning, and the consequences for an American operating in the area when he falls for a beautiful woman who is secretly a resistance fighter. Sure, Shanghai is never going to be a classic, but it’s gone undeservedly overlooked, particularly with its eclectic, ensemble cast, which includes John Cusack, Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li and Ken Watanabe.
On Region A locked HK Blu-ray we get decent enough video and audio, and the movie comes presented in its original English language, so there really is no reason for Western fans to pick up this edition and avoid having to wait an indeterminate period of time for the Weinsteins to get their act together. Shanghai will never bear more than a fleeting comparison to Casablanca – it’s not a masterpiece, nor an all-time classic – but, that said, it is still well worth checking out.
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