The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 1080p transfer using the AVC MPEG4 codec and is locked to Region B.
For a low budget Australian film the picture is clean, bright and detailed with very little to belie is origins. Detail itself is wonderful, skin and clothing weaves show finite definition, objects scattered around the various homes are clear and defined, look at the cocaine and the credit card being used to split it, how there are specks powder visible on the card, or the plastic notches on the handle of the Berretta 9mm. Outside also looks extremely good, take a look at the grass when Craig runs from the police, how well defined it is against the muddy ground.
Colours wise the palette is a little muted, favouring earthy tones rather than bright and bold, but all are represented extremely well with no hint of wash or bleed. Flesh tones tend to be somewhat brown but, again, this is a function of the palette as they still remain natural. The blues of the sky have superb gradation, and the various red/orange sunset shots have a glorious intensity without being overblown.
Contrast and brightness are set to give strong blacks, still containing a little shadow detail when called for, and there is absolutely no white clipping – take a look at Leckie’s white striped shirt, even in bright light every stripe is clearly visible. Look at that glorious sunset shot again to witness some wonderful traffic, street and office lights set against the midnight black of the rest of the cityscape, marvellous.
Digitally there were no compression problems but there was the occasional hint of edge enhancement, but not enough to spoil the scene. There is no print damage and it is very stable, with a light filmic grain to give a wonderful organic feel. I want to give this a reference score, but it is a little too raw to make that grade, however it is thoroughly absorbing and as close as it gets.
Just the one track to choose, an English dts-HD Master Audio 5.1, which is more than enough. Since this film is all about the realism, the track represents that fact with startling results; it’s never in your face, but gives a natural ambiance that puts you in the centre of the on screen action. For example dialogue is clear, precise and very natural sounding and not only given plenty of directionality when needed but also mixed with the action at the correct level, for example when Barry is talking to his wife but not wanting to be heard by the police, he turns on the vacuum cleaner, thus his voice is difficult to hear, much as it would be in real life. There are very few effects, but there is plenty of ambience, be that street sounds, cars, chatter etc. or simple ‘house’ sounds, creaking of furniture, wind, insects etc. Even the big effects, such as gun shots are not made out to be the massive explosions you hear in summer blockbusters, rather they are a simple, but loud, ‘bang’ much like a real gunshot is. Bass is low and strong, this is best picked up in the score which, at times, goes very low indeed, not quite shaking the foundations, but getting close. One the whole this a terrifically sounding track that excises bombast for something altogether more natural, and it works wonders.
- Audio Commentary – with writer/director David Michôd is a reasonably solid affair as he discusses the production of the film, how shots were achieved, casting, and other titbits of information. Strangely he doesn’t seem hugely enthusiastic about his film or himself talking about it – perhaps because he’s now moved on or has spoken so much its now all repeating – and as such it becomes a bit of a chore to sit through.
- Audio Commentary – with the cast, and includes David Michôd, Ben Mendelsohn, Sullivan Stapleton, Jacki Weaver and James Frecheville in what is an eclectic talk that meanders around the subject rather than concentrates on it. The cast spent an enormous amount of time in rehearsals so much so that they became much like the family they portray and this comes across in the chat with much over-talking and ribbing (they even admit to an argument before the recording started that resulted in producer Liz Watts refusing to participate) which can, at times, be difficult to listen through, though if you persevere this one has the more entertainment value.
- Making of (1.08.30, SD) – one of the better making of documentaries out there as it actually concentrates on the production of the film while it was being made, no stone is left unturned in this frank and absorbing discussion on how the film came about, how it went into, through and finally post production finishing up at the Sundance Film Festival at which it won best picture. Plenty of discussion with the cast and crew both before, during and after production as well as behind the scenes filming of the production and rehearsal period, well worth checking out.
- Interviews – a whole host of ‘short for publicity’ interviews with the major cast members as they (very) briefly talk about the film. There is nothing here that can’t be found, better presented in other parts of the disc.
A pretty comprehensive extras package here with the Making of documentary being the best of the bunch, some Hollywood studios could learn a thing or two about how to present quality extra material from this disc.
Animal Kingdom is writer/director David Michôd’s multi-layered and complex story based around the real life, infamous Pettingill family of Melbourne, Australia; ‘J’ Cody is embroiled into a criminal family when his mother dies and has his loyalty tested once he becomes involved in a terrible crime – with little ‘street smarts’ and the police narrowing in, who can he trust when those that are supposed to protect him look to be his worst enemies, on both sides of the law. James Frecheville as ‘J’, Jacki Weaver as mother ‘Smurf’ Cody and Ben Mendelsohn as the psychotic ‘Pope’ Cody give outstanding performances, and has seen the feature nominated for, as well as won, many awards and critical acclaim. It is powerful and moving and will have you thinking about yourself once the credits have rolled.
As a Blu-ray disc, Optimum has provided an excellent package, both picture and sound are quite brilliant and it is backed up by a wealth of extra features that are actually interesting to watch and not EPK specials.
This disc comes highly recommended.
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