The Man with the Iron Heart Blu-ray Review
Before Operation Anthropoid
After last year's Anthropoid we take a look at the assassination attempt on the brutal head of the SS from the point of view of the man himself.At least that's how The Man with the Iron Heart starts, spending a fair amount of time exploring Reinhard Heydrich's evolution from disgraced ex-soldier to power-crazy war criminal, with his initially supportive wife watching from the wings as he embraces his destiny with relish. Midway through the two-hour feature, however, and the focus shifts to the brave Czech soldiers who take a shot at him. The end result is a decent piece of wartime action-drama, uniformly well-acted, but regurgitating almost the exact same material as 2016's Anthropoid. It's no surprise really, as the 'rule of two' dictates that even the most unusually themed films can come in pairs, from Wyatt Earp and Tombstone to Volcano and Dante's Peak, with 2017 itself privy to at least two Churchill adaptations (three if you count The Crown), but really this is a very specific historical event to invest quite so much screen time on.The trouble is that there was a chance to do something different here, with the focus on Jason Clarke's vicious Reinhard and his wife, played by Rosamund Pike, proving an interesting new angle to the piece. Once he was in full villain mode, however, there was nothing particularly interesting about the character - he wasn't flawed, or tragic, riding off a painful past rich with psychological issues, he was just full pantomime evil. And whilst the likes of man of the moment Jack O'Connell (excellent in Godless), Free Fire's Jack Reynor and even Mia Wasikowska do a commendable job, their Czech rebel roles are less developed than those of Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan in Anthropoid because the split-focus story simply doesn't give them enough screentime. It's one Operation Anthropoid movie too many and, ironically given the fact it was shot back in 2015, too slow out of the gate.
Picture QualityThe Man with the Iron Heart comes to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate, who offer up the 35mm film production with a strong 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Although it doesn't go down the 16mm route of Anthropoid, which made for an aptly grainly but nonetheless quite ugly viewing experience, the 35mm image is still fairly textured and this works well to keep the period of the piece, maintaining a firm line in filmic grain.
A solid presentation which does the job well
Detail is well rendered, allowing for finer skin textures, clothing weaves and background nuances to become apparent, and although it's far from demo territory, it's solid enough work, representing the film faithfully and maintaining that period feel required for the setting. The colour scheme is subtly tilted in favour of a bleaker palette also suitably period in tone, avoiding primaries at all costs, and only really given a chance to show a richer edge during the lavish balls and parties. Black levels are strong, affording decent shadow detail without any overt signs of crush, and there are no distinct defects to bring the score down. Overall it's a solid, borderline very good presentation which does the job well.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also a strong, at times impressive effort that benefits from a few thunderous gunshots and aggression, as well as an unusual score that gives the film some much needed measure of distinction.
A decent soundtrack
Dialogue remains firmly prioritised across the frontal array, whilst the aforementioned score, which is very much a keen element of the piece in part due to the fact that there are just so many time-blurring montages used to stitch together the narrative, gets free rein across the surrounds for much of the proceedings, backing up the aural elements with verve and panache. Effects are often just atmospheric, but add tension and horror to the torture sequences, bring parties to life, and create a suitable bustle on the cobbled streets, however it's the film's more explosive conclusion - telegraphed interstitially - which really gives the material the opportunity to light up the soundstage, bringing your living room alive with thunderous gunfire and explosions. Maybe not demo material, but a decent track nonetheless.
ExtrasA single Making-of Featurette keeps the disc from completely being bare bones
Blu-ray VerdictOne Operation Anthropoid movie too many
Lionsgate's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release of The Man with the Iron Heart affords the film a decent package, with strong video and audio and a single extra to prevent it being utterly bare bones. It's an engaging tale but it's already been told - and just a few months previously - leaving the subject area well-trodden and arguably unnecessarily so. There's nothing here to justify a second production.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £13.00
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