S E A R C H D V D B e a v e r
H D - S E N S E I
A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze
Into the Wild [Blu-ray]
(Sean Penn, 2007)
Review by Gary Tooze
US Studio: Paramount
French Video: Fox Pathe Europa
Blu-ray Discs: Region FREE
Feature Runtime: 2:28:07 (on both)
French Feature film disc size: 24.2 Gig
US Feature film disc size: 43.22 Gig
US Disc Size: 45,760,692,518 bytes
Both dual-layered Blu-rays
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
French Release date: July 16th, 2008
US Release date: December 16th, 2008
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Video codec: VC-1 (both)
US Average Bitrate:38.91 Mbps!
French edition Supplements:
• Braving Alaska - National Geographic Special (Narrated in English by Martin Sheen) 51:55
• Press Conference with Penn, Hirsch 37:52 (questions in French translated to English - so he could answer)
Featurette: Into the
Wild: The Story, The Characters (4:3 letterboxed -
interlaced - mandatory French subtitles) - 21:53
US edition Supplements:
• Featurette: Into the
Wild: The Story, The Characters (4:3 letterboxed -
interlaced) - 21:53
• Theatrical trailer in HD (2:32)
Product Description: This is the true story of Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch). Freshly graduated from college with a promising future ahead, McCandless instead walked out of his privileged life and into the wild in search of adventure. What happened to him on the way transformed this young wanderer into an enduring symbol for countless people -- a fearless risk-taker who wrestled with the precarious balance between man and nature...
The Film: In Sean Penn's first three helmed efforts - The Indian Runner (1991), The Crossing Guard (1995), and The Pledge (2001) - each project seemed to advance upon each other - improving in the areas of pace, visual treatment and encapsulation and expression of subtext. My anticipation to view Into the Wild was skyrocketing upon first hearing of the production. This was especially true as, later, a good friend, (who sees over 150 films a year in theatres), stated that it was the best he had seen in 2007. Now that I have had the opportunity to view it (three times!) I enthusiastically agree (and yes, I have seen There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men). Into the Wild is up for Academy Award accolades in Best Achievement in Editing and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Hal Holbrook). The fact that it was not nominated for Best Picture or Penn for Best Director is only further proof at how ridiculously unremarkable achieving that statuette has become. It has evolved itself to be as worthless and meaningless as a Grammy. Just another 'celebrity' glad-handing ceremony of pomposity and flashy hollowness. Anyway...
Into the Wild is based on the best-selling, true story, book by Jon Krakauer. Its highest achieving ideal in the film is how faithfully it expresses the meaning of the protagonist's adventure - reaffirming a spirit of dropping out, lack of caution, and escaping from the dissatisfaction of society's goals and selfish aims. Hippie-esq indeed. Christopher McCandless (aka Alexander Supertramp) is played with quiet zeal by Emile Hirsch - who was recently touted as being 'one of the futures of American acting'. This is a visually appealing road-picture with frequent flashbacks and unique montages explaining McCandless' motivations. It is delivered on screen with detailed precision by Penn.
Penn's defining vision through all this is a most profound statement on modernity, lack of communication and our inability to express honest love. His manner in showcasing the underlying themes of Into the Wild truly evokes another masterful filmmaker and his similar dissertations on alienation in the modern world - the recently deceased Michelangelo Antonioni. This film is that good folks... and I give it my highest recommendation. out of
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
ON THE US EDITION: Well, we were dead wrong. This US Blu-ray edition is definitely NOT the same transfer. It is mathematically superior taking up almost double the disc space and it has one of the best bitrates I've seen this year - approaching 40 Mbps! Though visual differences seem non-existent and will be more subject to the size of your Blu-ray display but in the resized captures below you can't really note any subtle improvement by the North American Paramount edition - actually, nor in the enlarged captures. It may appear to show a bit more grain, detail is probably equal and in a very few scenes it seems to export more depth. If it's visible at all though - it is extremely small. Regardless, this is the definitive issue to own - especially considering it doesn't have the forced French subtitles of the Pathe (when the English language is chosen.) Contrast and colors on this US Blu-ray edition remain pristine and this may be the best transfer I presently own. I also still consider this one of the best 2 films from 2007 (Atonement being the other - come on Universal - put this to Blu-ray soon!)
ON THE FRENCH EDITION: ThisBlu-ray looks vastly more film-like than its SD-DVD counterpart. We have reviewed the reasonably strong 2-disc SCE and I have compared a number of captures below. There is improvement in all areas - detail, which we expect to be superior due to the higher resolution, colors are more vibrant (skin tones especially more true - less motley orange/yellow), contrast and black levels are dynamite and there appears to be very slightly more information in the frame. On my system, the Alaskan, and other, landscapes can be quite stunning - breathtaking at times. There is some fine grain and some noise. The film is darker than most and perhaps this influences my strong feelings about crisp Blu-ray image. Technically it is dual-layered using the VC-1 encode with the feature size being a reasonable 24.2 Gig. I see NO evidence of any digital manipulations like DNR or edge enhancements. This 1080P transfer is rock solid. Hopefully, the expandable screen captures below will give you an idea of what it will look like on your system. As with the HD edition I own (possibly the same encode) I was blown away at the quality on my plamsa - glorious indeed.
NOTE: This is a French disc and is not yet available in North America but despite this Blu-ray being region free (capable of being played on Blu-ray players worldwide) it has mandatory French subtitles when the original English language options are chosen. This, however, is not true through HTPC viewing. So why review? As well as being my favorite film of 2007, I strongly suspect that the hi-def encode will be exactly the same for the upcoming North American release. If we find it is different we will compare. Stay tuned.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
More French Blu-ray
More US Blu-ray
NOTE: May not be exact frame!
Audio & Music:
ON FRENCH: We get a fantastic DTS-HD Master 5.1 and TrueHD 5.1 option for both original English and the French language DUBs. It is extremely impressive as is the music from Eddie Vedder, Michael Brook and John Fogerty (to name a few) which floats out of the front speakers as crisp and clean as I've ever heard from those performers. I sampled both English options and the marriage of images and audio is truly brilliant on this Blu-rayfor both tracks. Let's hope the North American release duplicates this facet of the disc as well. As mentioned above there are French subtitles that are mandatory when either of the English audio options are chosen.
ON FRENCH: A few more supplements than the SD starting with a kind of filler 51 minute National Geographic documentary entitled Braving Alaska - narrated (in English) by Martin Sheen. I enjoyed the Press Conference with a tired looking Penn and Hirsch for 35+ minutes. They wait as there are some questions in French - then translated to English for their responses. We get the same decent, 1.33:1, featurette: Into the Wild: The Story, The Characters running 20 odd minutes but this one has burned-in French subtitles as does the 20 minute Sean Penn Into the Wild piece. Free of the forced subs though is the featurette: Into the Wild: The Experience - also founds on the SCE DVD and a Theatrical trailer. Dialogue on all is in English.
November 6th, 2008
UPDATED: December 5th, 2008