The Day of the Jackal Blu-ray Review
"This is a once in a lifetime job. Whoever does it can never work again."
Director Fred Zinnemann redefined the genre with his seminal assassination thriller The Day of the Jackal.Based on the classic Frederick Forsyth novel, the story piggy-backs off the real-life failed assassination attempt made by the OAS, a militant group who feel that President Charles de Gaulle was a traitor for freeing Algeria. The OAS decided to contract an outsider to complete the task, a lone wolf known as Jackal, who operates autonomously, leaves no trace, and could be the only guy to get a shot at the President and get away clean. Both the story and its adaptation take an almost documentary-like approach to charting Jackal's painstakingly meticulous operation to get to his target, securing and testing his weaponry, crafting his disguise, formulating his infiltration and escape routes, and - when he's good and ready - putting his plan into action.It's this style - capitalising on some great location work - that often sets Zinnemann's feature apart from its ilk, providing British actor Edward Fox with a career-defining role, and making the most of excellent French character actor Michel Lonsdale (Moonraker, Ronin) as the detective who may just be the only man who can track the untraceable assassin. Zinnemann also structures the film uniquely, spending the majority of the runtime focusing on the assassin's planning and preparation, rather than the hunt to find him, which gives it a curious feel as, whilst he's clearly the antagonist of the piece, you grow to admire his consummate professionalism. The film is not only a textbook assassination thriller, it's an absolute masterpiece.
Picture QualityArrow Video target The Day of the Jackal for its UK high definition debut with a Region B-locked Blu-ray that offers up a strong and organic 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation of the feature in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.
The best the film has ever looked and likely, short of a new 4K remaster, the best it ever will look
On the eve of its 45th Anniversary, the film takes on a new lease of life with this presentation, which boasts better detail and clarity than ever before, with excellent nuances and rich texture, and a strong but natural and wholeheartedly organic layer of grain pervading the piece which only adds to the filmic feel. The colour scheme follows the same slightly muted approach, intended to play to the documentary feel, allowing for a few nice natural colours to seep into the otherwise coolly realistic environment, mostly thanks to the excellent location work. With no overt defects, and little to complain about, it's easily the best the film has ever looked and likely, short of a new 4K remaster, the best it will look.
Sound QualityA faithful audio presentation of the original soundtrack
The accompanying lossless LPCM 1.0 mono track does a very good job at providing an equally organic aural element, delivering strong dialogue presentation with frontal clarity - it's English-language dominant, but also dips into French and Italian. Effects are nominally reserved, designed to reflect the mostly atmospheric environmental nature - whilst kick-starting with a more boisterous assassination attempt rife with revving engines, screeching tyres and rampant sub-machine-gun fire, it otherwise concentrates on bustling crowds, road traffic, and exploding watermelons to otherwise break the quiet. The score is similarly reserved, often largely non-existent in a further effort to emphasise the documentary style, but it still gives the array a little more fuel to disseminate. Whilst hard to criticise such a faithful audio presentation, it's equally hard to give it any kind of demo mark.
ExtrasArrow's release stumbles a bit on the extras front
Arrow's UK release of The Day of the Jackal may provide strong video and audio, but stumbles a little bit on the extras front, offering up little of any substance beyond a new half-hour Interview with a film expert who wrote a book on Zinnemann, and has plenty of interesting background into the acclaimed director and his work on this particular feature. There are also a couple of archival snippets which feature brief interview excerpts with Zinnemann himself, and a Trailer, with the package otherwise rounded off by a collectible booklet and some great new cover art on a reversible sleeve.
Blu-ray VerdictA textbook assassination thriller and an absolute masterpiece
Arrow's Region B-locked Blu-ray gives The Day of the Jackal an auspicious UK high definition debut, with excellent video, strong audio, and an extras package which, whilst small, at least maintains Arrow's consistency towards avoiding bare-bones discs and always finding something new to adorn their releases. It comes recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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