Well let’s get the bad news out of the way. This isn’t the best video presentation for Drive on Blu-ray. I’m not saying it’s not a very good video presentation, but it simply isn’t the best, those honours go to the frustratingly Region A-locked US disc released a day after the UK disc. Direct screengrabs highlight some subtle improvements, and even during playback there are a couple of niggles on the UK version which eagle-eyed fans will not be impressed with. All that said, what we’re talking about here is the difference between a demo-quality 9/10 US disc (which I’ve been fortunate enough to borrow from my editor for direct comparison) and a near-demo-quality 8/10 UK disc. So, at the end of the day, if you’re Region locked to UK Region-B then you don’t need to get too upset, this is a perfectly good, indeed often great video presentation which will more than fill the void until the inevitable double-dip (I assume early next year).
Clarity is good throughout, with fine object detail remaining strong and no significant softness, digital defects, DNR or edge enhancement. On either versions. The colour scheme is well-reflected, slightly more jaundiced on the UK release, but not so as you’d really notice without doing cross-screen comparisons. The colours are, for the most part, rendered very well indeed and the blacks are strongly resolved, which is of particular importance when you consider just how much they use shadows in this film. The tricky area lies in those blacks, actually, and also in the grain level that has been applied. The UK disc has some sporadic noise which appears to be more prevalent in some of the darker scenes, as well as a hint of banding and digital artefacting. Although there is plenty of fine detail, and I said there’s no significant softness, on direct comparison it’s clear that the US has slightly better digital noise levelling, and simply no softness, rather than no significant softness. The colour timing also appears to be better.
As stated, you’re not going to be crying about the video presentation whichever version you pick up, so don’t be disheartened just because there’s a fractionally better video presentation out there, especially with a superior release on the way. It’s just a shame that Icon appear to have delivered a different transfer to us in the UK, where Sony have come up with a marginally better one in the US. Both look very-good-to-great.
No such controversy regarding the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack which is most definitely outstanding, demo-quality material whichever side of the pond your disc emanates from. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, largely emanating from the frontal array where it’s required, but generally taking a back-seat to these proceedings, with the focus on the score and, to a lesser extent, the effects. It’s all been bundled up together very nicely though, with a brilliant sound design that combines retro beats with well-observed car growls to superb effect. All-embracing, the surround usage truly creates an immersive environment, the ticking scoring at the outset setting the mood, punctuated by brutal car racing, before we drift into a song track over the credits. Gunshots and brutal violence pepper the sometimes sublime elegance of the rest of the proceedings, with a strong undercurrent of LFE bass to further refine your experience. As much as the visuals are important, so too is the sound, and this track truly delivers the goods.
Whether you pick up the Region B-locked UK disc or the Region A-locked US counterpart, either way you’re going to be disappointed with the extras. But that’s ok, we already know from the Director himself that a double-dip Deluxe Limited Custom-Made Edition is on the way (along with, perhaps, a sequel) so, whichever edition you get, you’ll just have to make do with what they’ve cobbled together for these first releases. Whatever the differences, however, don’t be fooled into buying both versions – it’s not worth it.
The UK release boasts a BFI Q&A panel Featurette with the Director Nicholas Winding Refn, a Conceptual Poster Gallery, a Stills Gallery, a TV Spot and the Original Theatrical Trailer. The US release comes with slightly more material, and all of it is different as well: 4 Featurettes (I Drive: The Driver; Under the Hood: Story; Driver and Irene: The Relationship; Cut to the Chase: Stunts) and an Interview masquerading as a Documentary: Drive Without A Driver, with Nicholas Winding Refn.
Without a doubt the absolute best film that I saw in 2011, this relatively small indie production has true heart and soul; an ostensibly low-key b-movie made simply unique by unpredictable plot development, multi-layered characterisation, powerhouse against-type performances, stunning visual imagery and rich symbolism, and an outstanding retro score which will take your experience to the next level.
On Region B-locked UK Blu-ray we get very good video and excellent audio, as well as a smattering of extras. There’s no doubt that the US Region-A locked version has a better transfer, but it’s only fractionally better, and it does not mean that the UK release is not worth picking up if you’re Region-B locked. You’d honestly have to be really looking to find anything wrong with it. Of course, at the end of the day, a double-dip is on the way so it’s a moot point, but, honestly, who can wait for that anyway? Effortlessly cool, remarkably tense and surprisingly tragic, this film deserves a place in everybody’s collection right now. Pick it up immediately. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
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