The Messenger: The Story Of Joan Of Arc Blu-ray Review
PictureJoan slashes her way onto your screens at a respectable and theatrically correct ratio of 2.40:1, implementing with the MPEG-4 and burnt onto disc at the standard 1080p. In the main it's a sorry affair although it's not all bad. The earlier scenes have the most vibrancy with good colour fidelity in the small village and the fields which Joan as a child runs through. Skin tones in these scenes are toned well with little to no red push. Details are more than apparent in facial pore and textures of clothing or the barren village dwellings.
As the film progresses the colours become a little more muted and whilst this does fit the tone and nature of the film at the time it does flatten the image somewhat and reduces the pop factor that we've come to know and love from premium releases. In saying that even these colours are well defined and certainly well confined within their respective borders. Detail holds up remarkably well in the castle walls and the dirt ridden squalor the combatants have to live in.
Whites push a little in some of the brighter sky scenes and blacks are somewhat crushed at the other end of the scale; those darkened corners in the villages earlier on and the castles later not revealing as much detail as is in there. Blacks do not dive into the inky blackness that we know they can go to and again flattens the image somewhat. The encoding is problematic at times and whilst there is blocking or excessive noise all of the characters stand out like a sore thumb against most backgrounds, the level of enhancement is greater than I have seen it on other BluRay titles and is quite distracting at times.
Joan of Arc is not as bad as perhaps has been made out, with some scenes more than acceptable, but it's by no means the cream of the crop, coming some way under that banner.
SoundThere are 3 TrueHD tracks to choose from this European release and it's good to see the extra space available on this new high definition medium being put to good use. Surprisingly though French is not one of these options and obviously this review concentrates on the English variety.
This fares a lot better than the video mentioned above with quite an encapsulating sound field continually presented to the viewer whether in battle or the quieter court or countryside scenes. The melee of battle surrounds the listener with roars, catapults and distinct aggressive sword swings emanating from the rears moving through the field straight through to the fronts. Timing is impeccable as you will hear boulders swing through their wooden catapults behind you, released over your head flying through the air appearing on your screen and the sound field transposed to the frontal stage. In the court scenes voices can be heard all around and panned nicely as Joan meanders through the crowds, in the villages similar voices or animals can be heard from your surround speakers.
The frontal stage is well catered for with a wide open field, the score at times a little overbearing but normally not intrusive apart from one or two brief scenes where it does encroach on the spoken word a little. Other than that the dialogue is handled well, usually from the centre channel and distinct enough to make out the conversations between the main protagonists. LFE is surprisingly weaker than expected even in the battle scenes with the hooves of horses predominantly adding to the low frequencies.
ExtrasAll that we have on this disc is a trailer for Men in Black, the standard Sony This is High Definition promo and BD-Live content which whilst it does indeed successfully connect does not provide anything of any merit whatsoever; a few more trailers and sneak previews.
I'm not a fan of BD-Live anyway, usually finding it at too early a stage in its development to offer anything of any use. As such this extras package gets the bottom line from me.
VerdictJoan of Arc is a story to be told, listened to and watched; unfortunately though this is not it. Whilst earlier versions perhaps concentrated on her later years and specifically the heretical trials she was subjugated to this perhaps tries to cover the reasons for the journey she undertook. It was a brave enough move and in the end it just lacks some focus, certainly lacks inspiration and is weak by comparison to other variants that I have seen.
It's overly long and becomes tiring very quickly, Besson may have made a few films that we all enjoy but I can do little other than recommend this is bypassed as it's not his best work by far.
As a set it's a very mixed bag, no extras which may have made the whole viewing experience that tad better; the video is lackluster but bolstered marginally by much better audio. These though in no way compensate for the hack of a story.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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