PictureWell fake Baghdad (aka Jordan, Syria) has never looked this real. Coming blasting to Blu-ray with an excellent 1080p High Definition rendition framed in 1.85:1 (a marginal variation on the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1), this is the best looking gritty, dirty war flick released on the format. Detail is superb throughout, clarity resounding in spite of the intentional grain that pervades the picture and adds no end to the realism of the conflict. This is an intentionally flawed, and thus - in effect - flawless visual presentation, as you know that the image was perfectly created to look this way. The colour scheme reflects the drab, sun-bleached, dusty desert setting: everything muted and sandy, rough and war-torn. Black levels are deep and strong, allowing for true quality night sequences, and excellent shadowing, and we even get a little 3D pop added into the mix, the handheld, in-your-face shots coming alive almost as much as the explosive freeze-frame bomb sequences. Although not comparable to something like Transformers in terms of visuals, The Hurt Locker succeeds - in a very different way - at pushing the boundaries of the format and giving viewers something truly astounding to gawp at.
SoundIf you thought the video for this movie was spectacular then you should check out the audio. The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio track works wonders with what is already wonderful material for a reference-quality Home Entertainment example. Dialogue gets clear and coherent presentation from across the frontal array, but the fronts and centre channels have plenty else to do. The effects are really what this movie is all about - the smaller tics getting just as keen a rendition as the rest of the explosive bits. Ambient effects allow the environment to come alive with a buzz, but everything dies down for those all-important tense, bomb disposal moments. On a munitions from, you've probably never heard as many .50 calibre rounds fired on anything others than the recent Rambo movie. Both the Barrett .50 Cal sniper rifle and a mounted .50 Cal Heavy Machine Gun are featured, the punishing blasts rattling around the room (and in your head if you have the volume turned up too loud!) and allowing for some serious surround action, and more than a little LFE action too. Helicopters buzz overhead, jeeps roll by and, of course, bombs go off, the explosive ordinance making this one hell of a potent showstopper on Blu-ray.
ExtrasFirst up we get an Audio Commentary by the Director Kathryn Bigelow and the Writer Mark Boal. Boal was the war reporter who followed the real bomb disposal men around Baghdad, and his experiences, and 'sponsorship' by Bigelow makes for an interesting story in and of itself, bringing yet more authenticity to the proceedings. This is a commendable accompaniment, Bigelow primarily providing the film-related discussions on shooting and casting etc, with Boal offering some serious depth into the story and characterisation.
We also get a standard 12-minute Behind the Scenes Featurette, which offers up all the usual cast and crew interview snippets, making-of footage and final film clips that you would expect from this kind of thing. The participants cover all the bases - the concept, the characters, the themes of the movie and the narrative - and we get a background look at the setting and the scenes filmed, but this is pretty predictable, standard stuff, and nothing incredibly insightful is on offer here - unlike the superb commentary.
Finally there is a Stills Gallery to round off the disc, together with some Trailers.
VerdictThe Hurt Locker has been touted as the best film of 2009, and I can see precisely why. Not only does it play out as an extremely taut and tense bomb disposal thriller, but it is also a hauntingly accurate (at least as far as movies go) representation of the toll of war, in particular the modern Iraq war. Jeremy Renner gives a powerful, commanding central performance as the tortured soul who goes about putting his life on the line over the cutting of every single wire, every single day, and the movie goes some way to showing why somebody may just do something like that for a living. On Blu-ray this is an unusual gem - not a Hollywood Blockbuster yet with astounding presentation, both visual and aural. This really is benchmark stuff to throw you into the thick of things. The extras are a little on the limited side - a great Commentary but little else of note - although this is an undisputed must-have purchase for anybody's collection. Highly recommended, this could be one of the best Blu-ray releases of the year.
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