The Devil's Own Blu-ray Review
PictureThe Devil's Own looks very nice indeed on its BD debut, its 1080p 2.40:1 image rock steady and highly detailed. Although touted as a major release back in 1997, due to its leading men, the movie rapidly sank and you wouldn't have been surprised if Sony had let it sneak out onto the hi-def market with nothing more than a perfunctory transfer ... but this is not entirely the case. Despite a predominantly muted and overcast palette, the primaries are strikingly bold and vivid. Just look at the yellow of the cabs, the light blue of the police cruisers, the shades of the houses of the store-fronts, the reds of tail-lights and the incredibly brighter reds of the liners inside the cops' jackets - all things that really stand out with strength and vitality. Just look at the red gowns during the mass communion sequence. Skin tones, however, can appear quite flushed at times, although this is hardly a glaring error, and one or two interiors can become awash with a little too much orangey warmth than is strictly necessary.
Blacks are dead-on, though, with shadows and deep murk well rendered without any fall-off and the framing from DOP Gordon Willis nicely anchored by their stability during the opening gun-battle, the scenes in the bar or the basement, or in the back alley when Frankie is reunited with his trussed-up buddy. Contrast is good too, although there are times when it drifts a little, though the effect here is slight and shouldn't worry.
As far as the transfer goes, the image is cleaner and much more highly defined than I've seen it before. There is a smattering of fine grain throughout and some occasional edge enhancement, but this is still a very reasonable image throughout that makes the film look newer and fresher than ever. I did notice some slight evidence of jaggies around some objects, however, that drops the bar somewhat. Detail on close-ups is exemplary, with faces, hair and clothing all packing in plenty of finite information. There are moments when the image is wonderfully sharp and delightfully three-dimensional. Foreground objects or characters can have that pop that you want from 1080p, with a well-realised depth of field that makes the most of not only the bustling street scenes, the activity around the boat and the various action set-pieces, but the more intimate scenes of conversation and revelation. But there are also many scenes that flatten-out and, worse yet, soften up in the backgrounds to the extent where detail in the recesses is lost in the gloom. All of which points to a transfer that is a little inconsistent - there is much to commend, but equally much to mark down.
Yet, whilst The Devil's Own may not be perfect - it is far from the consistent quality of a top tier release - it still comes over well enough to delight its fans seeking an upgrade over SD.
SoundI was pretty impressed with the sound for Devil's Own, as well. It comes replete with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that really comes alive during the gunplay and violence. Bullets have real punch and weight behind them that sends them thunder-clapping across the soundscape, leaving veritable pockets of stunned limbo in their wake. Of course, the film isn't exactly full of such gunfire, but these ballistic interludes are very enjoyable indeed. The early fire-fight in Belfast also showcases some terrific helicopter rotors that chop right across the soundscape as well as detailed breaking glass and bullets pinging through metal.
There is also a genuine reach to the soundfield that enables even the quieter stretches to come across as spatially realised and engrossing. Cosy chats indoors have a warmth and a sense of free-floating naturalism that reinforces your involvement in the movie. City streets and activity in the Big Apple reveal an authentic ambience and hubbub in the bar or during the party at Tom's is always clear and realistic. Dialogue is well presented, too and features a degree of steerage that remains clear and natural-sounding. James Horner's Celtic-laced score may not be one of his most memorable, or exciting, but it is afforded a great sense of integration within the mix - never too overbearing, never noticeably dialled down.
So, overall, The Devil's Own does pretty well in the audio stakes and does a fine job of bringing the movie to life. Not exactly the most bombastic material in the first place, the soundtrack nevertheless injects it with life, power and aggression.
ExtrasAll we find here are a couple of trailers. One for Damages Season 1 and the other for Rescue Me. But then, you can't actually say that you're surprised The Devil's Own didn't warrant anything special, can you?
VerdictWhat could have been a good, solid thriller is ultimately let down when its premise quickly dovetails into genre convention and short-changes Harrison Ford's bland good guy. As a result, The Devil's Own is neither particularly memorable, nor exciting. He may not do anything especially wrong, but director Alan J. Pakula gives the impression of merely marking time with a scarcity of set-pieces, an atmosphere that ticks over without generating much in the way of tension or suspense and a relationship between the two leads that is workmanlike rather than genuinely affecting. With two actors of their calibre and status, it is such a shame that a powerful drama could not have been wrung from gloomy Ford and the brooding Pitt. As it is, they potter rather than storm, bounce words off one another rather communicate and utterly fail to convince us of the tricky and complicated bond that develops between the cop and the terrorist.
On the plus side, Sony's disc possesses a transfer with an often sharp and detailed image and a smart, and occasionally quite aggressive sound design. It may not be something that you would return to, but it remains a slick, by-the-numbers showpiece for two of Hollywood's most bankable stars ... if you like that kind of thing.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.95
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