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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Hidden Agenda [Blu-ray]


(Ken Loach, 1990)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Hemdale Film

Video: Kino Lorber / Signal One Entertainment



Region: 'A' / Region 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:48:41.097 / 1:48:40.764

Disc Size: 22,710,612,861 bytes / 42,846,962,716 bytes

Feature Size: 22,155,823,104 bytes / 27,616,466,304 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.96 Mbps / 30.00 Mbps

Chapters: 8 / 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / UK (thicker) case

Release date: September 15th, 2015 / October 12th, 2015


Video (both):

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 1704 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1704 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit



English, None / English (SDH), None



• Trailer (2:04)


• Newly filmed interview with actor Brian Cox (2015 - 30:37)
Newly filmed interview with director Ken Loach and producer Rebecca O'Brien (2015 - 25:01)
The Guardian Interview with Ken Loach (1992): archival interview filmed at the NFT (1:13:10)
Original theatrical trailer (2:22)




1) Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Signal One - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Description: Acting greats Frances McDormand (Blood Simple) and Brian Cox (25th Hour) confront danger and deception at every turn in this chilling and explosive story set in strife- torn Northern Ireland. Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Hidden Agenda is a taut political thriller that makes the unthinkable seem all too plausible. American activists Paul Sullivan (Brad Dourif, Wise Blood) and his fiancé Ingrid Jessner (McDormand) journey to Belfast to probe allegations of brutal human rights abuses by British security forces. Now, with their safety in jeopardy, they must decide whether to risk everything to reveal the truth and uncover a shocking high-level conspiracy. Featuring top-notch direction by legendary British filmmaker Ken Loach (Cathy Come Home, Kes) and a rousing score by Stewart Copeland (Rumble Fish).



The Film:

This political thriller is set against the backdrop of Northern Ireland's "Troubles" and directed in the documentary fashion common to British filmmaker Ken Loach's films. Paul Sullivan (Brad Dourif) and Ingrid Jessner (Frances McDormand) are American attorneys serving on a human rights group working to monitor cases of prisoner mistreatment in war-torn Belfast. When Paul learns of some information that may be injurious to the Thatcher government, he is killed, and a top-secret tape disappears. Assigned to the case, Inspector Kerrigan (Brian Cox) is joined by Ingrid in probing Paul's death, which seems to be related to rumors of a high-ranking cabal within the British government working to undermine the Irish Republican Army and liberal policies toward Irish separatists through violent and illegal means. Ingrid meets with Harris (Maurice Roeves), a former British Secret Service agent who's now turned on his former cronies. Together, they look for the top-secret tape.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE


Loach's film has the feel of a Costa-Gavras political thriller and a script by controversial Marxist Jim Allen. Despite its sometimes flailing conspiracy-theory narrative, and its upstaging by TV projects like Stalker, Death on the Rock and Who Bombed Birmingham?, this deserves to be seen simply because it takes the debate on Ireland further than most such docudramas, asking questions about the nature of the British presence and its effect on the mainland's justice system. The plot, based on both the Stalker and Colin Wallace affairs, concerns the murder of an American civil liberties campaigner by security forces, and the subsequent enquiry by Brian Cox's Stalker-style police officer which leads to the heart of the military and political establishment. Whatever one thinks of the political line on offer, there's plenty of evidence of Loach's undiminished power as a film-maker, and equally ample evidence that something is very rotten in the state of Northern Ireland.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The single-layered Kino Lorber Blu-ray of Hidden Agenda has some softness that seem inherent in the film as it is consistent throughout. In fact - its appearance is very much in-line with looking like a 'Ken Loach film'.  There is a sense of realism with the heaviness and grain texture support. Colors and contrast are solid in the 1080P transfer. The source is clean with hints of depth and no undue noise in the film's darker sequences. This Blu-ray won't 'Wow' you with its HD picture quality, but as a representation of the original - it looks to have done its job well.


Like their On the Beach 1080P transfer, Signal One Entertainment produce a superior, and more accurate, HD presentation. It is notably darker, with warmer skin tones. Contrast is better - and their dual-layered technical rendering is more robust with a higher bitrate. It looks better to my eye but only discerning systems will, probably, be aware in-motion. 





1) Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Signal One - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM




1) Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Signal One - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM




1) Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Signal One - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM




1) Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Signal One - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Signal One - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Signal One - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM











Audio :

Kino Lorber use a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel track at 1704 kbps in the original English language. There aren't an abundance of effects in the film but the score by Stewart Copeland (Rumble Fish, Wall Street, Talk Radio), as well as Irish songs Joe McDonnell and Young Ned of the Hill, are supported well by the lossless. Dialogue is a shade scattered as per the docu-vérité style but there are optional English subtitles included and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Signal One go with a linear PCM 2.0 channel track (24-bit) - and again it would be presumed to be a more accurate representation of the theatrical - more robust and tight but I suspect few would notice the difference with the DTS-HD Kino (16-bit). Copeland's score benefits and establishes tension. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles on the region 'B'-locked disc.


Extras :

Only an original theatrical trailer.


Signal One impress with some new supplements - we get a 1/2 hour frank interview with actor Brian Cox discussing Loach, Hidden Agenda and his career. We also get a newly filmed, 25-minute, interview with director Ken Loach and producer Rebecca O'Brien recalling the production. Fans of the director will appreciate a 1 1/4 hour Guardian, archival interview filmed at the NFT with Ken Loach from 1992. Lastly, we get a theatrical trailer. I appreciate these extras.


Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray



Signal One - Region 'B' - Blu-ray



Hidden Agenda is a very strong political film - superbly acted (Cox and McDormand are still two of the best working today - 25-years later!) and I found the investigation aspects suspenseful. The Costa-Gavras comparison is an accurate one, IMO. I think it really deserved some form of discussion in the form of supplements. The Kino Lorber Blu-ray
is bare-bones but worth a purchase on the strength of the film - especially for Loach fans. Recommended!


Hidden Agenda gets a better Blu-ray treatment in region 'B' - which the film, rightly, deserved. Signal One have advanced upon the previous presentation in both audio and video and have added some great supplements including new interviews. It easily bests their US counterpart and we give this our highest recommendation!  

Gary Tooze

September 2nd, 2015

October 8th, 2015



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 5000 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.

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Gary W. Tooze






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