PictureIt is good to see Blu-ray finally getting its act together with regards to the visual side of things especially in comparison with its rival HD disc format. Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 utilising the AVC MPEG-4 codec and with a maximum resolution of 1080p, The Patriot looks nothing short of stunning. Colours are the first aspect to impress. They are just so vivid and lush, grass is deep green and colours within these greens jump out from flowers, corn, shrubs and the like. The reds of the soldiers uniforms cut through the natural colours of the foliage like a knife. These bright colours mix seamlessly with the natural tones of skin and skies. One point of note was that when viewed on my plasma, the greens looked totally lifelike although exceptionally vivid, but on my DLP projector which can sometimes struggle with the colour green, the shades where a little too oversaturated requiring me to make some slight adjustment.
The next point of note is the incredible detail present. This movie just cries out for detail. Featuring fields of corn, deep woodlands, intricate soldier's uniforms, immense grasslands and large homes full of intricacy All these are beautifully realised and fans of the movie will be overjoyed with the improvements over the standard DVD version in this respect.
Next up is the black level which is inky in its depth. Shadow detail is maintained throughout and never lost even in the darkest scenes. Tremendous depth of field is apparent especially during the battle scenes where the colours, the detail and the blacks all gel to produce an incredible image.
Anything to criticise? Well, at the beginning of the movie there appears to be a higher than expected level of grain within the image. Either this grain subsides, or you become accustomed to it because it doesn't prove an issue after this initial opening scene. That's about it. A close to perfect transfer and a testament to what the format can offer.
SoundA choice of two audio options are on offer here. Either the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track (640 kbps), or the superior uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack. Both are excellent in their use of dynamics and surround ambience but the uncompressed version edges it in all departments. Being a movie primarily about war and battles, gunshots and cannon fire abound and the subwoofer channel is taxed to the maximum going very deep down into the lowest octaves.
Channel separation is also exemplary. The musical score resonates throughout the room and well placed effects help widen the soundstage further still. During one scene soon after Gabriel is taken, Benjamin is seen running through a wooded area and you can clearly hear birds chirping all around you and other familiar sounds of the forest bringing the scene to magical life
Dialogue also plays an important part in this movie despite the many battle scenes. This is handled deftly and at no point was I unable to hear clearly what was being said onscreen no matter how enthusiastic the scene became. The tone of dialogue is also handled naturally and never sounded boxed in or artificial .
John Williams composed the score to this movie and although a consummate composer, this score does give the film more of an 'adventure' feel to it rather than a 'dramatic' piece. More Raiders of the Lost Ark than Gladiator. It still sounds great though!
Maybe not quite as impressive as the visual side of things, the audio is still excellent. Perhaps a 6.1 or 7.1 surround track would have been better, but we know that will be something for a future release....don't we!
ExtrasA little disappointing I'm afraid to say on the extras front. Basically we have two very short featurettes ; "True Patriots" (10 minutes) and "The Art of War" (9 minutes), “The Art of War” features cast and crew chatting about the some of the aspects of these historic wars and how they were fought back then along with clips and music from the movie. Those talking on this subject are by no means experts on the matter so the depth and detail of the item is somewhat lacking. Still, what we do get is quite interesting but it is all too brief and superficial.
“True Patriots” takes a brief look how the makers tried to capture an authentic feel to the movie with regards to costumes, battle formations, weapons etc. employing the Smithsonian Institution as consultants. We see how the muskets worked (or didn't), the detail of the costumes and all the fittings, buttons and other small touches needed to make them as close to real as possible. We look at the actual people of the time and what kind were driven to become soldiers for the American Revolution or stay loyal to the British. Again, this feature is over just as it seems to begin. These featurettes are predominately in 480i/p with a few of the movie clips in HD.
Finally there is a preview for Legends of the Fall starring Brad Pitt This trailer is not in HD unfortunately.. That's it! Apart from the obligatory “Coming to Blu-Ray“ opening sequence, there are no more bonus features. A real shame as there were considerably more on the standard DVD version. I can only imagine they are holding back material for a future re-release once the format acquires greater market penetration.
VerdictThe Patriot is an ok movie but not a great one. It could have achieved greatness but in my opinion there was a mismatch between subject matter and director. What saves it from being a complete disappointment is the ever dependable Mel Gibson who gives a sterling performance along with Jason Issacs who plays Mel's evil counterpart. As a showcase for the format's ability visually and sonically though, it does a grand job, looking and sounding better than ever before. Braveheart or Gladiator it isn't, The Patriot relies too much on sentimentality and melodrama. It is a movie made for Americans to feel proud they are American, and us Brits to feel crap about ourselves. But we're really not that bad.....Honest!
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