PictureFilling the screen at 1.85:1 and coded at 1080P using the MPEG2 system, the picture quality on this Disney BD-50 dual layered disc is a bit of a mixed bag
Daylight scenes are awash with detail and colour. Skin tones are spot on and the image is crisp and solid. Blacks are solid and there is ample detail in the shadows. Moving indoors, things stay nice and stable. Edge enhancement is only noticeable by it's absence and there is zero colour bleed throughout. The source print is immaculate - as should really be expected with a film with a 2006 vintage.
However, it's not all good news I'm afraid. Night time sequences are sometimes a complete mess. Most of the rescues take place in darkness, add the inky blackness of the sea at night, you end up with a total loss of colour right across the palette. Which is how it should be. But, it's during these scenes, for some reason, the picture quality seems to fall apart completely. Detail all but disappears from any part of the scene, let alone the shadows. Skin tones seem to glow bright red. This could be deliberate to give the audience a sense of the cold. But to me, it appeared to be bit rate starvation - which on a 50 gig disc, is pretty unforgivable.
All in all then, pretty average on the picture front - though the film does look very good in well lit scenes, some dark scenes (of which there are many) become pretty unwatchable
SoundDisney have gone to town on this disc and have really spoilt us with the choice of soundtracks. First up we have the regulation Dolby Digital 5.1 track. This is accompanied by a lossless PCM 5.1 track in English. However, our European cousins don't miss out on the lossless format either - kind of. Disney has included DTS HD-Master mixes in German and Spanish. Unfortunately, the players or decoding equipment isn't available at the time of writing this review to play them - but they will downscale into full bit rate DTS and there are Dolby Digital 5.1 available in the same languages.
During the action sequences, listening to the LPCM track, this is a reference quality disc. While the characters are in the sea, waves will crash around your living room with pin point precision. You'll be looking under your seat for you life jacket! Bass is loud and low frequencies are in abundance. The surround channels are used to great effect with some very imaginative sound mixing using split surrounds.
During the quieter moments, the sound mix keeps up there with the best available. Dialogue is anchored to the centre channel and is clear and concise. Ambience effects are believable in the bar scenes with music coming from all around your listening room and at times, from individual speakers.
A brilliant sound mix then, that really comes to life during the rescue scenes.
ExtrasThe extras on this UK sourced Blu-ray disc are a direct port from the R2 SD disc. First up are 2 vignettes - The Guardian: Making Waves and Unsung Heroes: So Others May Live. The first one is the usual back slapping from the cast and crew and is really nothing more than an 11 minute trailer. It's here, however, that we find out that Hurricane Katrina hit during filming and a rapid change of set was required...during the second featurette, we actually see some footage of the search and rescue teams in action during Katrina. This puts it all into perspective for me and my hat well and truly goes off to these men and women. At six minutes long, it's to short and is probably as good, if not better than the main feature...
Deleted Scenes and an Alternate Ending are next on the list. The deleted scenes were rightly left out of the finished picture. At just over 2 hours long, it's long enough. None of them really brought anything to the table anyway. As for the alternate ending - I prefer the one in the film. I'll say no more so as not to spoil it and leave you to make up your own minds. The alternate ending is presented in glorious 1080P High definition by the way.
Strangely not advertised on the box is a Commentary by director Andrew Davis and writer Ron L Brinkerhoff. Why it's missing off the box the studio only knows...it's not that bad! It does tend to drift a little of topic and by the end of the two hours, I had tired of it. But it's there - that's the main thing.
Overall a pretty standard set of extras except the brilliant vignette about the actual real life rescue swimmers - which is all to short
VerdictThe Guardian can be considered a real return to acting form for Kevin Costner. Ashton Kutcher plays the second string well whilst Costner is off set. While they are at work together, you get the feeling that Kutcher is scared to get into character properly for fear of upstaging the old master. His performance suffers because of this and inevitably, so does the movie.
As a Blu-ray set, the picture quality is a mixed bag. The outdoor and well lit scenes are up there with some of the best seen on any format. It's during the numerous dark scenes where the picture quality falls flat on it's face. I'm not 100% sure why this happens, but if it is bit rate starvation, it's unforgivable given the discs 50 gig capacity. The sound quality can be classed as reference quality. Those of you that love a loud detail packed soundtrack should check out the LPCM 5.1 offering here. It's phenomenal! The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is no slouch either...
The extras package is a pretty standard affair with a really standout (but all to short) featurette about the real search and rescue service.
I can recommend the Guardian to die hard Costner fans. Kutcher is the eye candy for the ladies but is upstaged at every hurdle by the old man. The remainder of you may want to rent first, buy later.
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