The International Blu-ray Review

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by Casimir Harlow Jun 20, 2009 at 12:00 AM

  • Movies review

    The International Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £22.29


    The International is a very recent production, and comes to Blu-ray with a largely excellent 1080p High Definition video presentation in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1. Detail is, at times, astounding - not least the opening close-up of Clive Owen, but also many of the later sequences, facial detail up there with the best of the best, the suits perfectly sharp or poignantly creased as appropriate, the settings varying from the clinical bank-related locales to the shoddy, dirty New York basements, but always allowing for amazing attention to detail. Softness is largely eschewed, with no overt use of DNR or edge enhancement to create such a sharp, clean image. If there is any minor quibble to raise - some of the scenes do have a thin veil of grain on them that really shouldn't be there, certainly enough to warrant the video score losing at least a point. With such stunning locations and a very keen sense of perfect symmetry, and eye for breathtaking background shots (the aerial/topographical shots are amazing and the colours are lavish, realistic and vivid throughout) this often makes for a superior disc to show off your equipment with, but - at times - it is far from perfect. Black levels too suffer from variability, with some of the night sequences more prevalent to grain than others, as if they are scenes from a very different, more gritty movie indeed. Perhaps the Director did this intentionally, but I do not buy the variant nature of the picture as being intentional, instead putting it down to the way it was shot, lit and dealt with in post-production. As I stated, this is a 80% perfect video presentation, but I cannot explain why some of the scenes just do not stand up visually alongside the others.
    The International Picture


    To accompany the flawed gem of a video presentation we get an unquestionably potent sound mix to showcase the movie's superior, and quite catchy, soundtrack. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix presents the dialogue keenly, clearly and coherently, whether taking in up-close-and-personal conversations across the frontal array or the more crowd-based atmospherics through the surrounds. The effects vary from planes flying overhead (and thus over your living room) to car crashes to simple footsteps and ambient nuances (doors closing, cars rolling past). Of course the big aural set-piece comes in the form of an extremely loud and pervasive shoot-out, with plenty of automatic gunfire to set off your surrounds and have your LFE thundering. The score is quite noteworthy too, a tinkering little ominous number that has both a thematic sense of investigation and an undercurrent of threatening dread to it, seeping into your surrounds and becoming as apparent during the longer intermediate location shots as during the more thrilling moments. Overall it is an excellent score, showcased superbly here on Blu-ray.
    The International Sound


    The most significant - and often most underestimated - extra is normally the picture-in-picture track, but here it is less an exhaustive affair and more a piecemeal gimmick. It has comments from the Director, Writer and Star Clive Owen, as well as many of the other significant cast and crew members involved in the production, all talking over a small video image in the bottom of the screen which normally depicts behind the scenes footage relevant to what it going on on-screen, and the discussions are very interesting, offering a lot of insight into the characters - much more than you can easily gleam from watching the movie itself - as well as background into the plot, how topical it was (and based on real life) a few years ago, and how it took a long time to finally come to fruition. Annoyingly, however, there are some huge chunks where simply nothing appears on screen - no commentary, no contribution, just movie, making it difficult to absorb all the information on offer without having to sit through random bits of the movie again.

    The standard Commentary by the Director and the Writer is at least better sustained across the duration of the movie and, thus, offer much more information into the production, with loads of trivia about how they came up with the ideas, the shots, the locations, the action and so forth, as well as discussions about the cast chosen and the motivations of the characters that they portray. Although I would normally recommend the PIP track hands-down, the full-length commentary is much less irritating in that it is fairly consistent throughout the runtime of the film.

    Although there is only one “Deleted Scene” on offer, it runs at a whopping 12 minutes in length and consists of about 4 scenes that would have played back-to-back, marking it as a sizeable chunk to have removed from the tail end of the beginning of the movie. Including more character development and relationship development between the two main characters, as well as quite a tense moment of their being chased, it is clear that they should have left this in - despite it obviously extending the movie's already long runtime by a significant amount. Still, they did well without it, although Naomi Watts' presence in this scene would have perhaps better justified her billing and presentation as such a prominent character.

    What soon becomes apparent when watching the 30 minute Making-Of Documentary is that the majority of the material here has been chopped and edited for the segmented PIP track earlier. Honestly, it is better presented here, as a comprehensive, interesting look at the creation of this movie - from concept to post-production. Shooting at the Guggenheim is a brief 6 minute camcorder-shot look at this location-based setpiece, The Architecture of the International is a similarly brief but much more polished look at the locations and buildings chosen to almost become characters in their own right within the movie, and The Autostadt takes an even quicker, 5 minute look at one of the other main bits of architecture chosen for the movie. Almost all of the footage here can be glimpsed in the PIP track, if you can be bothered to sit through the entire 2 hour movie to catch the few moments of behind the scenes footage easily accessible here.

    Finally, in terms of extras, we get a bunch of trailers - although none of them are for the main feature itself.
    The International Extras


    The International is a solid old school thriller, with a contemporary, almost-topical but mis-timed story about a truly corrupt bank and the determined Interpol Agent trying to get to the truth. Featuring some superior cinematography and one standout shoot-out, the thriller loses steam in the final act, but still marks a solid, intriguing offering, and is largely carried by solid star Clive Owen. On Blu-ray we get oddly unstable video in what should have been an easy-to-review benchmark depiction. Still, it is pretty perfect for the most part, and the audio is certainly hard to fault. Some nice extras, including a rather good deleted sequence, round off this disc and fans of old school thrillers will likely not be disappointed, nor those who like Clive Owen's myriad work. It's at least worth a rental and certainly comes recommended.
    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £22.29

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