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Ride With the Devil [Blu-ray]
(Ang Lee, 1999)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Universal Pictures
Video: Criterion Collection - Spine # 514
Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 46,382,690,710 bytes
Feature Size: 42,967,074,816 bytes
Video Bitrate: 32.16 Mbps
Case: Transparent thicker Blu-ray case
Release date: April 27th, 2010
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
DTS-HD Master Audio English 3943 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3943 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
/ DN -4dB / Dolby Surround
English (SDH), none
• Two audio commentaries, one featuring Lee and
producer-screenwriter James Schamus, and one featuring Elmes,
sound designer Drew Kunin, and production designer Mark
Description: With this new director’s cut, Ang Lee reconstructs his original vision for Ride with the Devil, a harrowing, unorthodox Civil War epic. Set during the Kansas-Missouri border war, the film follows Jake (Tobey Maguire) and Jack Bull (Skeet Ulrich), who join the Confederate-sympathizing Bushwhackers after Jack Bull’s father is killed by abolitionist Jayhawkers, and find an unusual ally in Holt (Jeffrey Wright), who’s fighting for the South despite being a former slave. A rumination on identity and loyalty, both political and personal, Ride with the Devil is a provocative challenge to preconceptions about America’s bloodiest conflict.
Showcasing Ang Lee's versatile talent for making great period dramas,
following Sense And Sensibility and the superlative The Ice
Storm, the film follows a group of pro-Southern 'bushwhacker' guerrillas
on the Kansas-Missouri border in their conflict with the
There is some inherent softness in the appearance of Ride With the Devil. I wouldn't fault Criterion's Blu-ray transfer. It appears to have been an intentional production choice possibly representing a more 'authentic', less pristine, look with the cinematography, but the 1080P, dual-layered, rendering brings out nature's colors extremely well. Scenery looks jaw dropping at times and some close-ups are impressive for their detail - but overall the sharpness could be considered at the modest end of the scale. The, long, director's cut, of the film still has a healthy video bitrate and contrast exhibits decent black levels. The naturally lit daylight scenes are the most impressive and these dominate Ride With the Devil. The Blu-ray colors almost look too bright at times but I can find no evidence of excessive boosting. Visually this isn't on par with more modern film transfers to the new medium but as a representation of the original source - I'll wager it is not that far off. Hopefully, the screen captures below will give you a fair idea.
NOTE: Max tells us in email: "I just read your 'Ride with the Devil' Blu Ray review where you mention some softness in the image. The last time I saw the film was in the cinema when it first got released, so I don't recall too much anymore how the sharpness was there, but I do know the film was shot on JDC's 2.35 Research anamorphic lenses, which are based on old Cooke S2 and S3 lenses. So I am not surprised that the film looks soft to you, because quite frankly these lenses are not very good, from a purely technical point of view." (Thanks Max!)
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
There is a very strong DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 3943 kbps. It can be quite robust at times - never being 'showy' with overly demonstrative separations. There is some heavy gunplay and action sequences and they can jump out (punchy bass) with power but the film also has extensive dialogue sequences that are clean and crisp. The original score by Mychael Danna is quite beautiful and comes through the lossless track sounding majestic at times. There are optional English subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region A-locked like all Criterion Blu-rays to date.
Criterion offer two audio commentaries, one featuring Ang Lee and producer-screenwriter James Schamus, and one featuring Elmes, sound designer Drew Kunin, and production designer Mark Friedberg. The first pairing we have heard before in Criterion's edition of The Ice Storm. This is equally as good and they get along well in conversation. It is comfortable covering many aspects and the second has the technical crew and it holds it own with discussing the film's historical appearance, marketing and critical response. There is also a 15-minute new video interview with star Jeffrey Wright (Daniel Holt in the film) who mentions the film's political perceptions among other details. Finally there is a liner notes booklet featuring essays by critic Godfrey Cheshire and Edward E. Leslie, author of The Devil Knows How to Ride: The True Story of William Clarke Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders - a book I wish I had the time, and inclination, to read.
April 11th, 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