War Blu-ray Review
PictureCorrectly framed at 2.40:1 and coded at 1080P using the AVC-MPEG4 system, the picture quality on this BD-50 Dual Layered Blu-ray disc is a little bit of a mixed bag I'm afraid...but it's not as bad as it could have been.
The main culprit is a very slight black crush. This means, particularly in dark scenes, that detail seems to disappear into the shadows. Had the studio taken the black level down one more notch, I think this disc would have been a disaster. As it is, we can live with what we have, as the rest of the disc looks very nice indeed.
Outdoor scenes have the yellow tint splashed over them in what seems to be the norm in Hollywood these days. This makes skin tones look a little unnatural but it's supposed to be there and isn't a fault with the disc. Blacks outdoors are solid and deep. Check Jet Li's suit for the differences in black levels that this disc can achieve...
I did spot some blockiness in parts but there really wasn't enough to detract from the film. Grain is kept to a minimum and what is there is supposed to be. Edge enhancement is noticeable by its absence and, as expected for such a recent movie, the print is in pristine condition with no scratches or marks to be seen throughout.
SoundLionsgate have been spoiling us recently by including fully uncompressed 7.1 channel LPCM soundtracks on their Blu-ray discs - and War is no different. For the purposes of this review, I chose the lossless track and delivered it to my Onkyo 875 amp from my PS3 via HDMI...
From the first scene, those two surround back channels are involved. Gunshots pinged from directly behind me. I have had an extended set up for a few years now and I must admit, a few times I had wondered why. This particular disc is why. I've been waiting for it for years...those of you that can't make use of the extra two channels will not miss out though - because this track isn't all about surround effects.
Steering is pinpoint perfect. Gunshots come from all speakers and will have you turning your head to see where from. The LFE is used to great effect during the fight scenes to emphasise kicks and punches.
Dialogue is rooted to the speaker it's meant to come from and there's no bleed at all. The score also utilises the LFE channel; the rap songs, that are fed into the film, rock da house - so to say...
Those of you that can't make use of the lossless channel - fear not. The disc also sports a 640kbps Dolby Digital Surround EX track. Correctly flagged, it will fill your room just as well as the uncompressed LPCM track. However, in my mind, the PCM nicks it by gnats whisker with it's more controlled LFE and slightly better steerage.
Top marks are very rarely given by me in any review (though I did give one - once).
This is as close as I would imagine to a perfect soundtrack - and perfect means top marks. 10/10 from me.
ExtrasAs with the soundtracks on their discs, Lionsgate have been piling on the extras as well - or so it seems at first glance. The box for this disc actually states that a Profile 1.1 Blu-ray player is required to play the extras on this disc, that's not strictly true. The following are extras ported directly from the SD DVD but given an HD make over
The War Chest (72.00 - HD) is really the cream of the crop. It actually appears in two sections - but don't be fooled. Both are the same. You can access the chest whilst the movie is playing at anyone of the nine key scenes that it describes. This is done by selecting War Chest On when playing the movie. As the movie plays, a chest appears onscreen - hit enter on your remote and the disc goes to a vignette about the scene you are watching. It's also available as a standalone alone extra that you can watch all in one go or in nine parts. It includes interviews with the cast, crew and director.
Audio Commentary with writers Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory J bailey is a real snooze fest. Each shot is introduced individually, as is each actor and it gets real tedious after about fifteen minutes.
Scoring War (9.00 - HD) is an all too short vignette with score composer Brian Tyler.
Audio Trivia Track plays throughout the movie. If the audio commentary didn't send you to sleep, this will. It features a woman talking about the scenes in the film and introducing us to the director and writers again. Why this couldn't have all been done on one commentary, I'll never know. It's dull, boring and very un-interesting. And to make it worse, the woman doing the commentary sounds like the voice on my sat nav!
Deleted/Extended Scenes (2.00 - HD). Two deleted scenes and one extended one. Nothing special and were rightly left out or cut.
Gag Reel (2.00 - HD) featuring mainly Jet Li cutting some guys arm off.
The following are HD exclusive extras...
PiP Visual Commentary -I have ammended this part of the review as the original version was incorrect. Cliff Stephenson, the special features producer over at Lionsgate was kind enough to get in contact with me and explain how the PiP process was done - "The PIP commentary with Philip Atwell is NOT a complete second encode of the film. We used a subtitle stream to create the image and it runs over the same encode of the film as if you were just watching the film straight. At the time the disc was designed and spec'd (which was nearly a year ago), the state of player profiles as of January 1, 2008 wasn't 100% known. We chose to create the track as a subtitle to ensure playback on ALL machines. It's actually a rather impressive feat technically, but it's been completely overlooked because true 1.1 stuff made its way to the market at the same time (including on this same disc)."
Thanks for clearing that up for us Cliff - and as I said in my original version, this commentary is the best of the bunch.
B Roll PiP. Now this is true PiP and lasts for about 49 seconds. It shows how the special effects were done in a scene where one of the actors puts an axe into a chef's chest. I'm happy to report that it worked flawlessly on my PS3. If any of the extras are going to trip up a non-profile 1.1 player, this will more than likely be it.
Yakuza Fighter Game. This is a totally pointless exercise. It takes about three minutes to load on my player and isn't worth the wait.
Bookmark feature allows you to bookmark your favourite scenes and return to them once you insert the disc.
Blu-line Feature is another totally pointless feature. Press any of the direction buttons on your remote during the film and it will fast forward or rewind to a certain point. I've always used the FF or RW button for that in the past - and I won't be changing now.
So, what looks like a comprehensive set of extras could boil down to two watchable documentaries and one decent commentary. The rest is just padding and a total waste of disc space and time. Unless you have young children in the house and need to get them to sleep or are an insomniac that is.
VerdictWar is a strange one for me really. When I watched it for the first time, I thought it was a mediocre action film that had a half-decent script. It plodded along with some nicely choreographed fight scenes and plenty of action to keep any home cinema fan happy.
Then BANG. Out of nowhere, a twist that threw all that mediocre business out of the window and turned it into a stylish thriller and the action and fight scenes come second to the plot. But, did the twist come too late? I will admit that by the time it happened I was ready to raise the six card for the film and file under “Not bad”. But the cleverness of the film raises that to an eight and it goes up the filing cabinet to “Very Good.” If you're feeling the same way I did, stick with it and you'll be well rewarded.
As a Blu-ray package, the picture is sometimes flawed by black crush and some digital noise - but it's not enough to spoil the film. The soundtrack is the redeeming factor and gets a resounding ten from me. It really is reference stuff.
The extras are padded out by a lot of rubbish and the space on the disc could have been given over to the picture to get rid of that digital noise...at times, the bitrate on the picture goes BELOW 1Mbps - unacceptable in my book, seeing as though Blu-ray purists tout the extra disc capacity as one of it's biggest selling points.
I can recommend War to almost anyone really - but it might be worth renting over buying due to the limited re-watch value. Jet Li fans should click buy now.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.79
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