The Shadow Line comes to UK Region Free Blu-ray with an absolutely spectacular video presentation, framed in the series's original aired aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen. Although it’s only 1080i High Definition (it was broadcast in 1080i HD as well), the image looks stunning, and I honestly can’t see how anybody will have any complaints about it. Detail is excellent throughout, skin texture, find object detail – it all looks great, with no sign of any DNR or digital defects, and just a smidge of edge enhancement, which never really interferes with the image at all. The colour scheme is well represented, skin tones vibrant and full of life, the atmospheric setting showcasing glowing, streetlamps, occasionally sunny days, and often moody nights, broken up by different night lights – red and neon. Black levels are strong, deep enough to allow the character of Gatehouse to appear out of the shadows at his whim, and overall, in spite of the 1080i formatting (which really only affects a couple of movement shots – where motion blurring can just about be seen), it’s one of the best video presentations of a TV series that I have ever seen. The only aspect which made me consider marking it down to less than reference quality was the fact that it really wouldn't have been all that hard for the studios to have splashed out for a 1080p presentation here. Whether or not it would have made any actual difference, we shall never know.
All we get to accompany the TV series is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack – and, really, the unquestionably excellent score deserves much, much more. Still, it’s far from a bad audio presentation, the dialogue and scoring playing equally important roles and vying for attention across the frontal array. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout – from Gatehouse’s quiet and considered words, to the shouts and screams from nearly every other character at one stage or another – and, cleverly, the score largely drops out (effects and everything) and just allows the words to carry through. Effects are still well-observed, wherever needed – car noises, the click of press cameras, police sirens, or even the occasional gunshot – but it’s the excellent score that pervades every single scene, every climactic moment, heightening the tension until it’s almost unbearable, and often foreboding of the tragedy awaiting around the corner. The score is perfect, one of the most important elements of the production, and although the presentation is only Dolby Digital Stereo, it does still largely suffice, not even close to demo quality but also far from bad.
All we get is a selection of Deleted Scenes, all available on the final disc – a total of 7 scenes, four of which are from the finale alone. If you enjoyed the drama, enjoyed the dialogue and the characters, then these are all worth checking out – but you can also see why they were removed: an earlier introduction to Freddie Fox’s character would have spoiled the surprise of seeing him further down the line (but, at least, included here, it offers a better explanation); and a moving eulogy from Gabriel – again perfectly framed – let down partly by his wobbling lower lip. Well worth watching.
If it were possible to have a British equivalent to the critically acclaimed US TV series, The Wire, then this would be it. The Shadow Line is absolutely essential viewing. Beyond the eclectic ensemble cast, playing some unique variations on the usual clichéd characters, relatively new writer/director Hugo Blick has taken his fantastic script, noteworthy for its highly stylised dialogue, and fashioned an artistically shot and framed work of art; set to a moody, brooding pitch-perfect score and rounded off by a haunting title theme. It’s a work of genius.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get similarly excellent video (despite it being only 1080i) and decent enough audio (even if it’s only DD 2.0), as well as a smattering of decent Deleted Scenes. Fans of the drama should regard this as a worthy purchase to pick up, newcomers who like their TV viewing to be both weighty and original, who are fond of decent crime dramas and police thrillers, or who enjoyed The Wire, should certainly consider a blind buy – it really is that good. Compelling viewing, this production comes highly recommended.
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