Yanks Blu-ray Review
A different kind of conflict
Movies reviewSRP: £15.99
Yanks Film Review
John 'Midnight Cowboy' Schlesinger came off the back of his success with Marathon Man to direct the wartime Richard Gere drama, Yanks.The director had enjoyed critical and commercial success just a few years earlier with the Dustin Hoffman / Lawrence Olivier thriller, enabling him to finally get to make his passion project - a war film without the war. Yanks would go on to tank at the box office, and be critically dismissed, and Schlesinger would never make another gem, let alone release a hit, but it remains amidst his better, lesser, films, positing an unusual viewpoint for a war film.
Following the relationships of two American soldiers - Richard Gere and William Devane - and the English locals they woo - Lisa Eichhorn and Vanessa Redgrave - Yanks tells a tale which few (certainly of the more modern generations) would know about, with the Second World War going full throttle and thousands of American soldiers landing in Northern England during the build up to D-Day, finding short-term love in the arms of the locals, even with the knowledge that they may never see each other again.
This is clearly a very personal passion project.
Schlesinger's intentions are honourable here - this is clearly a very personal passion project - and he elicits an interesting lead performance from a very young Richard Gere (playing it with his usual charm but also pulling back to deliver an unusually sensitive angle), taking his time to build a picture of conflicted emotions (the locals all have their own partners who are away at war facing their own uncertain future) and craft an atmosphere within the unusual backdrop.
It's still a slight picture, struggling at times not with the lack of war scenes depicted but perhaps the limited conflict on offer - latter scenes of racism are undercooked, and the story takes a good long while to come to the boil - and perhaps even a little in the interaction between familiar American actors and familiar English actresses, which is supposed to be a somewhat awkward clash of cultures, but doesn't always come across as awkward in the right way. Nevertheless Yanks delivers an unusual angle for a World War II movie, one which is rarely explored but which certainly gets respectful coverage here.
Yanks Blu-ray PictureEureka brings the 40 year old Yanks to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the production's original theatrical presentation of 1.85:1 widescreen. Clearly showing its age and wearing the badge of its production limitations - and perhaps even the limitations of the North England setting - it's a variable presentation which enjoys some highs but also frustrates with inconsistencies like unruly noise.
A variable presentation which enjoys some highs but also frustrates with inconsistencies.
Detail is better than the film has ever enjoyed before - not surprising given its debut on the format - with facial closeups pleasant and revealing, revelling in skin textures and the hair in particular, whilst the sets and environments prove rich in terms of natural authenticity, even if it is generally quite a drab and dingy setting. The colour scheme is similarly limited, and at times feels like it might as well be monochromatic, eschewing conventional stylisation in favour of pure kitchen sink reality - war overseas was not pretty, so downtime on home shores may as well not be either.
It's the noise / grain level and the fluctuations of the same that provide the most frustrating distraction, with some sequences - the ones with lower level lighting are the obvious candidates which have some explanation, but other shots are less justifiable - coming across as soft and hazy. Juxtaposed with how good the image can be, it's an annoyance which will get to some more than others, leaving this an otherwise solid Blu-ray bow for a film which will likely never look any better than this.
Yanks Blu-ray SoundThe accompanying lossless Linear PCM mono track does a decent enough job with the melodrama, affording clear and coherent rendition of the dialogue, and giving the limited authentic effects some range, and the score some presence across the array.
A decent audio offering.
As with the video, it's hardly demo territory, but it's a solid, natural presentation of the film's original audio, avoiding the potential pitfalls of a badly constructed six-speaker remix but also inherently limiting the source material to a front-dominated delivery.
Nonetheless there's little to criticise here, with solid reproduction of the score and a few more engaging atmospheric moments - the military vessel cruising the river; the trains whistling in the bustling station; the live bands and crowded bars and cinemas; and the army trucks rumbling down streets not big enough to handle them - rounding out a decent audio offering that is likely the best the film is ever going to sound too.
Yanks Blu-ray ExtrasNothing but an archival Interview with the Director and the original theatrical Trailer.
Yanks Blu-ray VerdictA decent enough bow on the format.
Likely to always be remembered for Midnight Cowboy and Marathon Man, the late director John Schlesinger arguably squandered what goodwill he'd accrued in Hollywood by undertaking this passion project which consequently flopped and disappeared.
Eureka's Blu-ray release of Yanks affords it a decent enough bow on the format, with flawed but generally solid video, strong audio and an interview from Schlesinger to round out the package, allowing fans of the director to discover one of his less well regarded smaller films almost 40 years after it was made.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £15.99
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