The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 1080p transfer using the VC-1 codec. The HD DVD always had a very clean and bright transfer and this Blu-ray is no exception. Detail is very sharp throughout, skin features, clothing weaves, the rice in the paddy fields, the far distance mountain sides and particularly the bark of a tree that Hou sits under, it looks like you can run your hands over it and feel each and every bump, all are clear and distinct and help to shape the three dimensionality. Look too at the individual water drops during the fateful sword fight; each one shines.
Colours too are bold and strong showing no wash or bleed, the reds of the blood are suitably deep and vivid, the greens of the mountain village are lush and the blues of the sky are soft and sweeping. There was no banding or posterization; both of which were noticeable during the final dream scene in the night sky on previous versions.
Brightness is set to give some lovely deep blacks, look, again, at the fateful fight to see the depth of frame, still with plenty of shadow detail. Contrast is a little high in places with some tree branch detail being slightly lost due to boosting, but for the most part is very good giving rise to pure whites.
The original print is clean and bright, spotted a couple (literally) of spots of damage but you really have to look for them, and maintains a light sheen of film grain that holds the filmic look. No evidence of digital tomfoolery nor is there any compression problems but there was a tad of edge enhancement going on and the odd bit of aliasing. But on the whole this is an excellent picture.
Three sound tracks to choose from Mandarin DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround, English and French DTS 5.1 Surround, but on the directors cut only the former is selectable and that's the one I concentrate on. The sound track was always good, but now it is even more defined, more dynamic and more detailed. There is a real sense of being in the centre of the action, the fight scenes have punches and kicks that whoosh past you; this is particularly well realised in the four fight showdown when the various weapons sweep across the sound sage matching their on screen actions, listen for thrusts that push you backwards. Helped immeasurably by the level of bass which is deep and resounding and comes across in sweeps as you feel every punch and every kick, LF effects are plentiful. Some are cheesy such as the drumming girls, again in the final fight, that have directionality depending on where they are on the screen, but most are smile inducingly great.
The score is pumped through all the speakers, again placing you in the centre of the stage and dialogue sounds natural, given directionality and never drowned out. Subtitles are in a nice white font, American grammatically correct and read very well. In all this is a reference sound track, but a low reference (if you know what I mean) that will please and excite in equal measures.
- A Fearless Journey - 0.16.06
Just the one featurette ported over from the HD DVD and presented in SD. Pretty basic stuff with interviews from all the main cast and crew and narrated by 'movie trailer guy'. It manages to convey a reasonable amount of information without going into too much depth, some nice behind the scene material and very little padding from the finished product; answers the burning question that this is actually Lee's final martial arts film, well it did at the time.
Apart from being able to mark you own book marks that's it for the extras package, somewhat of a let down I feel.
The directors cut of Fearless open up the story to what it should have been with the release of the former cuts. It is grand in scope, clearly seeking to obtain epic status and it so nearly does. The biographic story is one that is truly heart warming and heart breaking and redirecting Wushu as a way to focus body, mind and spirit as apposed to just another martial arts beat 'em up is laudable. Li is at his absolute best both emotionally and physically and this was a fitting conclusion to his martial arts career (although in fact it wasn't).
As a Blu-ray package Universal has put together a somewhat lacklustre product, the excellent picture and reference sound are badly let down by the rubbish extras package, however it could be argued that three versions of the same film are extras in themselves. Fearless in its directors cut is clearly the way to see the film; it is the only way to get the most out of it and that's where I get my score from.
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