Town, The Mini Review (UK - BD)
Chris takes a quick look at the Blu-ray release of the recent Ben Affleck movie
Ah, a mini review. As you might have guessed this is another title that we received very close to the street date, so in order to meet the deadline I decided to take the cut down review route. I promise it's not a case of being lazy (although 'lazy reviews' has a nice ring to it); it's just that there wasn't time to watch two versions of the film and all of the extras before the release and still write a lengthy piece. Anyway, I missed The Town theatrically due to the very short window of opportunity at my local cinema, and having heard good things about the film I was looking forward to this viewing. Ben Affleck is a guy who often comes in for criticism, some of it deserved, but on balance I have probably enjoyed more of his films than I have hated them. I recently watched Gone Baby Gone for the first time and thought it was a solid effort, so the guy clearly has some talent behind the camera, but it’s in front of the camera where he comes in for the most stick. On this occasion he takes on dual roles as director and actor, and as far as I’m concerned he does a pretty good job. The Town is an atmospheric crime drama in the vein of something like Michael Mann’s Heat (although not as good), and I enjoyed my time with the feature. The disc includes two versions of the film and I chose to watch the extended cut, which offers more character development at the expense of faster pacing. It also throws up one or two continuity errors, but as it represents Affleck’s vision for the piece more closely than the theatrical release it’s a definite bonus to have the chance to compare and contrast. If you're looking for a more detailed analysis of the feature itself I'm afraid this isn't the review for you, but if you're hear to find out whether the Blu-ray is worth your money, read on.
Warner delivers a strong 2.40:1 (1080/24p AVC) transfer for The Town's inaugural Blu-ray outing. In the States there has been some controversy about the decision to include two cuts of the film on the disc as separate files, rather than by using seamless branching. In principal I would agree that cramming almost five hours of high definition video and audio onto a single disc doesn't sound like the best idea, especially when you consider that the disc also includes another thirty-something minutes of HD Focus Points, but the reality is that the end result isn't that bad. The film has an intentionally gritty appearance, with a fine layer of grain throughout. The palette is well-rendered and surprisingly attractive given the cool temperature of the colour timing, and blacks are generally very deep, although this is sometimes at the expense of shadow detail. However, it's hard to say whether this is a fault or merely part of the film's aesthetic. I didn’t spot any film artefacts or digital nastiness in the form of edge enhancement, and it doesn’t look like the film has been subjected to the usual round of Warner filtering. I’m sure if I was to sit down and examine the film frame by frame I could find more to criticise, but as far as I’m concerned it looks fine in motion. No, scratch that, it looks better than fine, it looks pretty damn good.
Audio comes courtesy of an impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, presented in 24-bit for the theatrical cut and 16-bit for the extended version. There's a lot to enjoy about this presentation, featuring as it does strong atmospherics and directionality. Dialogue is generally easy to comprehend, be it in the quieter moments or the maelstrom of the action sequences, but the thick Boston accents did cause me a few problems (although obviously this isn’t a technical issue). The bulk of the action comes during the two largest set-pieces, in which the criminals wield automatic weapons and aren’t afraid to use them. I mentioned Heat earlier in the review, and these sequences really put me in mind of that film’s iconic shootout. Bass is also a powerful presence when needed, reinforcing the gunshots and explosions with brawny authority. The score isn’t particularly memorable, but neither is it detrimental, instead offering a solid foundation for the rest of the elements to build upon. Although I felt compelled to defend the visual presentations to some extent I have no such worries with the audio. Whether you chose the theatrical version or opt for the extended cut, you’re in for a real treat.
The disc doesn’t include a whole lot of extras—hardly surprising given the amount of high-definition video already crammed onto the disc—but it does feature an interesting and insightful commentary track from director/actor Ben Affleck and a series of Focus Points. Unlike some commentary tracks this one is definitely worthy of you time, be it in theatrical or extended form. The Focus Points fall under the heading of ‘Ben’s Boston’ and offer on-set interviews with the cast and crew and other production snippets, and can be viewed either from the main menu or during the film. Oh, there’s also a handy marker to point out the additional footage during the extended cut, although it doesn’t always seem to synch up very well. Although I only received a single disc screener, I am reliably informed that the retail release includes both a DVD and Digital Copy.
The Town is another assured feature from Ben Affleck, in which he manages to coax some great performances from his cast (particularly Rebecca Hall). Visually only the most specs-obsessed individuals will find anything of consequence to complain about, while the audio is probably close to most people’s idea of demo material. Although relatively thin on the ground the extras are at least interesting and informative, which I’ll take over hours of fluffy nonsense any day of the week. Anyway, if it isn’t obvious from the above I was very impressed by both the film and this disc, so the release gets a definite ‘thumbs up’ from me.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Release Date: 31st January 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 German, Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, Descriptive Narration 5.1 English
Subtitles: Arabic, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italaian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Ramanian, Spanish, Swedish
Extras: Audio Commentary, 'Ben's Boston' Focus Points, Extended Cut Scene Indicator
Easter Egg: No
Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Titus Welliver, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper
Genre: Crime and Drama
Length: 150 minutes
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