PictureThe Book of Eli comes to Blu-ray with a superior High Definition 1080p rendition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1. Now it should be noted that this is – for all intents and purposes – practically a monochromatic film, offering up an extremely bleak palette which basically boasts shades of brown and white. The dystopic post-apocalyptic setting is a smoother, more obviously digitally rendered variation of that seen in The Road, the sky plagued by thick clouds, the landscape scorched by the sun and left bleached to the point where all normal life resides behind clothed doors or heavy clothing/sunglasses. This video presentation brings this world to life, and allows for an immense amount of detail to show up on your screens, with basically no softness, edge enhancement or digital defects apparent throughout the runtime. It’s an all-but flawless image, bereft even of grain (which, for me, would have actually probably suited the material). The colour scheme? Well, that’s extremely limited, but they do well to render tones as best as they would look – theoretically – under these conditions. I mean, who exactly would know what the world would look like? Black levels are solid and allow for tremendous shadowplay – an all-important part of the proceedings – and as a representation of the material on offer, this is a superior offering.
SoundOn the aural front I really don’t think many will realise just how amazing the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is until they give the movie a second viewing. You see, this movie isn’t about clear dialogue, or noisy effects – although we get both – it’s actually about acutely observed ambience. But you won’t fully get that under a second run, whereupon you’ll notice that every single atmospheric sound comes to life – babies crying, chains clinking, a mouse scratching around – in an unprecedented, almost exaggerated kind of way. It’s one of the most vibrant tracks that I have ever come across, palpably teeming with life, offering up superior directionality and dynamics. It’s tremendous. Beyond this aspect, of course we get some more traditional sonic high points – gunshots and shotgun blasts ringing out across your living room, bullets whizzing past your ear and missing you by a fraction of an inch, and even the odd explosion lighting up the array. The LFE channel gets a little bit of a workout here, and the pervasive, eclectic score ensures that – even when the ambient effects aren’t being acutely observed – there is plenty on offer to envelope you up. As I’ve stated, the score alone justifies a second viewing, just to pick up on all the hidden detail, and you could do far worse than use this movie as demo material for your sound system.
ExtrasThe Book of Eli comes with a whole bevy of extras. First up we get Maximum Movie Mode, you know, that option which was promoted by Zack Snyder on his Watchmen and 300 Blu-ray releases, which – to be honest – you just don’t get to see often enough on releases these days. This picture-in-picture track offers up everything you could possibly want in the way of background material: behind the scenes footage, shots of the scenes being filmed, cast and crew interview soundbites, Director’s video commentary, and visual effects and concept art comparisons shots too. It’s a powerful, comprehensive track which largely covers all of the bases, and should be a mainstay extra on any decent new BD release, but since it is still relatively rare to find this kind of offering, it is always nice when you do come across it. Even beyond all of this, we also get the option – mid-film – to dip out and engage various short Featurettes (also available from the Special Features menu as ‘Focus Points’), directly related to that stage in the proceedings, taking the interactivity to an extra level.
A Lost Tale: Billy is an interesting, if disappointingly short, animated ‘prequel’ to the movie, basically offering up a brief backstory to Carnegie, and establishing his character at an early age. A nice touch to have here (as opposed to some deleted flashback footage attempt), it works well to enhance your experience of the film.
The Behind the Story section is split into two segments: Starting Over and Eli’s Journey, the first giving you 13 minutes of ‘what life would be like in a post-apocalyptic world’, with various contributors discussing survival and repopulation techniques; and the second taking the best part of 18 minutes to look more specifically at the movie’s specific angle on a future dystopia: dissecting the visual style, the characters, actors and story – with its pervasive theme of faith – as well as some of the set and prop design.
Next up we get a couple of nice Deleted/Alternate Scenes. Although these do not largely enhance the main proceedings – and you can see why they were excised – it is always good to have the option to watch extra footage as a supplemental on a release, and fans will enjoy the extended and marginally more brutal bar fight sequence.
The Book of Eli Soundtrack is not, as you might understandably have hoped for, a bonus audio-only offering of the score, but instead just a five-minute offering that has the Composer discuss the film’s score. We also get a Theatrical Trailer and some Preview Trailers (that cannot be skipped, and annoyingly have to be fast-forwarded) on disc Startup.
VerdictAttempting to offer up both action-adventure and contemplative religious overtones, The Book of Eli is an ambitious post-apocalyptic road movie which does not quite hit the mark. Although it boasts good central performances from both Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman, and paints a visually opulent rendition of a possible future dystopia, it largely skims the surface of the more religious and philosophical aspects of the proceedings – avoiding the prime opportunity to offer up more depth than you would usually expect from this kind of movie, and relying instead on some well-stage action set-pieces to act as sustenance for audience members. Personally, I think it is a bit of a missed opportunity, and even the final act reveal will probably only convince scant few to return to the film – which is a shame, because it does have more to offer a second time around. Still, it is never less than entertaining, a bit like a ‘diet’ version of The Road, which many may be relieved to hear given how damn bleak its counterpart is.
On Blu-ray we get excellent video, benchmark quality audio (the best track I’ve heard this year, so far) and a plethora of comprehensive supplemental material, presented in the best possible ways. Fans will definitely want to pick this up – there is little more that they could want from a release of the movie. Newcomers should consider this an engaging, enjoyable post-apocalyptic action-adventure. Far more substantial and entertaining than the lacklustre Waterworld, it still has a way to go before reaching the action-heights of Mad Max 2, or the depth and insight of Children of Men. Worth a rental to see if you like this particular vision of the future.
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