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The Book of Eli [Blu-ray]
(Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes, 2010)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Alcon Entertainment
Video:Warner Home Video
Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 30,309,607,030 bytes
Feature Size: 21,325,245,888 bytes
Video Bitrate: 16.95 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: June 15th, 2010
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: VC-1 Video
DTS-HD Master Audio English 3431 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3431 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio French 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps / DN -4dB
* Dolby Digital Plus Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
English (SDH), French, Spanish, none
• Maximum Movie Mode: 40 minutes of picture-in-picture
commentary with Denzel Washington and the Hughes Brothers,
and 10 Focus Points (34:24 in HD!)
• Second disc DVD of film
Description: Thirty years after an apocalyptic event, Eli (Denzel Washington) travels on foot toward the west coast of the United States. Along the way he demonstrates atypical but effective survival and fighting skills, hunting strange wildlife and swiftly defeating a group of highway bandits who try to ambush him. Searching for a source of water he arrives in a ramshackle town which was built by and is overseen by Carnegie (Gary Oldman). Carnegie dreams of building more towns and hinges these hopes on finding a certain book. His henchmen scour the desolate landscape daily in search of it...
A road warrior of a different sort, the title character played by Denzel Washington in “The Book of Eli” spends much of the story traveling by foot across an eerie landscape, a long and quick knife at the ready. The brown, dusty environs look familiar and not, dotted with abandoned cars and the occasional corpse. When Eli pauses, the camera settles near his feet, and the sky opens above him like a sheltering hand. With his green jacket and unsmiling mouth, he looks like a veteran of an unknown war, a soldier of misfortune — though, given the fog of religiosity that hangs over the movie, he might be an avenging angel.
This is the first movie directed by the talented twins Allen and Albert Hughes since “From Hell,” their torpid, predictably hyperviolent 2001 take on Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s graphic novel about Jack the Ripper. Although this new one has its comic-book qualities, good and bad, the Hugheses have stanched the blood in “The Book of Eli,” making it easier to pay attention to what else is happening on screen. They stage an early fight, for instance, entirely in silhouette, so that the arcs of spurting gore appear black, not red. Like all the fight sequences, this one is highly stylized: set inside a tunnel with the camera low and the sky serving as an illuminated backdrop, it looks like a page out of a comic come to animated life.Excerpt from Manhola Dragis of the NY Times located HERE
This was shot in high-definition digital with the 'famous' Red camera using cinematographer Don Burgess via locales like New Mexico representing a post-apocalyptic earth. The usual limitations of this production aren't as readily apparent perhaps because of the filters that lend further credence to the barren wasteland that the world has become. There are some impressive shots and angles plus the reasonably seamless effects that take place and these come through very well in 1080P. The VC-1 encoded image is smooth with minor depth but it comes together adeptly on the visual front. It's dual-layered with a surprisingly low bitrate but the film is more like an impressionist canvas than attempting pristine detail. This probably looks very close to how it did on the big screen.
The DTS-HD Master 5.1 track at 3431 kbps has some of the most aggressive moments I have heard in a long while. A tabby cat snarls like a lion cub and all the weaponry from Eli's scimitar to punching gattl'in guns belt the bass out of the subwoofer. Even the music (original score by Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross and Claudia Sarne ) like Al Green's "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" - is wonderfully crisp and clear. Eli's soft-spoken dialogue seems to share some resonance. I was very impressed with the sound quality on this lossless track - just be prepared as separations are strong but the low end can strike like a cobra. Warner offer optional subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.
Warner have included a 'Maximum Movie Mode' which consists of 40 minutes of picture-in-picture commentary with Denzel Washington and the Hughes Brothers, plus 10 Focus Points (titles like 'The Look of Eli', 'The Underpass Fight' , 'Creating Carnegie's Town' etc.) running an additional 35-minutes. There are deleted / alternate scenes for less than 2-minutes, plus A Lost Tale: Billy which, akin to a graphic novel, is an animated short (5-minutes) covering Carnegie's backstory - in HD (as are all video supplements)! Starting Over is the title of a 13-minute piece exploring the role we might play in reshaping society after a global catastrophe. Cool. We get 5 minutes on the audio with co-director Allen Hughes and composer Atticus Ross comparing notes about the soundtrack construction and deconstruction. Eli's Journey takes 20-minutes probing the historical and mythological roots of the film's central themes. This was also rewarding to watch. No full commentary but enough here to sate the enthusiastic fanbase. Ohh... you also get a second disc DVD of the film in the package.
The Hughes brother's film is one of the most enjoyable I've seen of this sub-genre of the sci-fi core - which I actually tend to be a closet fan. This is all at once smart and campy with unique and precise art direction - cape-less superman Denzel (Eli) is absolutely perfect (as are, too sexy, Mila Kunis and stalwart baddie Gary Oldman plus strong support from Jennifer Beals, Malcolm McDowell and the always apocalyptic Tom Waits) - and it is extremely well written. 'Cheese' is at a bare minimum. This is a highly entertaining film - much beyond the usual conventions. I've watched it twice already and anticipate another viewing sometime in the near future. The Blu-ray does a great job of maintaining the unique appearance and supporting the intense audio. I give this a rousing thumbs-up!
May 28th, 2010
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be
it, but film will always be my first love and I list my
favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze