PictureSwordfish is shot in a most peculiar way, over saturating the colour levels, and laying a level of sheen over the whole print that can be quite distracting. The increased resolution of HD does not manage to show off the colour too well, due to this over saturation - this is particularly noticeable in the outdoor scenes at the beginning of the film set outside Jobson's trailer.
The transfer, however, is pin sharp. Presented in a 1080p VC 1 transfer (the same as the HD DVD incidentally) the transfer really brings out the detail in the film, particularly the exterior city shots, with background detail really showing out clearly.
Night scenes are also extremely well handled, with the centre piece car chase looking breathtaking. The level of detail on the cars, and the background information maintains this level of detail despite the low light conditions, and the pace of the action unfolding.
The transfer shows no grain, no noise, and is very clear and clean. Colours are vibrant and bright, although as mentioned already they can look a little artificial. This is not the fault of the team who produced this transfer who have done an excellent job indeed. This is certainly a transfer that really benefits from the leap to HD.
SoundThe disc features a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix, and despite one flaw it is equal to the picture in terms of quality. The sound separation of the front sound field is excellent, and rear use is subtle but effective, with sound effects very well placed within the mix. A great example of this is the opening “exploding hostage” scene, where the cleverness of the visual effect (I am trying not to give too much away here) is matched with precise and clever sound positioning, with the sound panning all around the room.
However, I did mention that there was a problem with the sound, and that is the volume. For some reason, the mix is very quiet, and I had to turn my amp up by 8db in order to get the full effect. In addition to this, the vocals are buried very low in the mix, meaning extra adjustment of the speaker balance was needed; otherwise it would have been necessary to constantly adjust the volume between action and quiet scenes. It seems a shame, when so much effort has gone into a mix, to make such an elementary error. However, once the necessary adjustments are made, this is certainly an excellent soundtrack.
Fans of LFE will also be in heaven here, as the sub is given a good workout, explosions in particular sounding excellent with a deep punch to them.
ExtrasThe Extras are exactly the same as the DVD release, and are a definite mix of the very interesting, and the mundane.
We start with an HBO First Look Special - a title which always fills me with dread, because you know it is just going to be an extended promo for the film. And that is, indeed, what we get here. I have mixed feelings about these “HBO first look” extras. Yes, they are formulaic, yes they are unremittingly positive and fawning, but as a completist you would want them included on the disc. So here it is, telling you over and over again for 24 minutes, how great the film is, how all the actors are quite simply the best in the world ever, and lovely people as well. Good for one viewing, probably
This theme is continued with Conversations with cast and crew - 15 minutes of interviews with Joel Silver, Travolta, Berry, Jackman, and director Dominic Sena. Nothing really new or interesting in this segment - it is the usual mutual love-in.
Things improve with the seven minute ”Effects in Focus : The Flying Bus” which dissects the shooting of the climactic scene in the film. This is definitely the most interesting extra on the disc, as it shows in detail how they filmed one of the most clever effects scenes in the film. I have to say that I would have preferred a dissection of the opening action scene, but what is here is most interesting, and shows what lengths the film-makers and actors went to in order to get the scene shot.
Then we have a truly dire ”Planet Rock” music video, which should most definitely NOT be watched before the main feature as it spoilers a lot of the main scenes, and two alternative endings which are interesting - but you can see why they were ditched in favour of the one we actually got.
Finally, the director gives an audio commentary which is light on comments about the actors and production team, but very good on the technical aspects of the production. This is a very listenable commentary indeed, and will certainly appeal to die hard fans of the film.
VerdictSwordfish is a very enjoyable Saturday night popcorn movie. What it lacks in a decent script, it makes up for with excellent action scenes and a clever storyline. Certainly not a highbrow art film, it just sets out to entertain - and it does this well. An excellent transfer and decent sound mix makes it a recommended disc to show of your system, even if it is a little light on extras.
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