Shanghai (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - Scandinavia - Noble Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Samuel Scott (22nd December 2013).
The Film

***This is an A/V and extras review only. For reviews on the movie from various critics, we recommend visiting HERE.***

From director Mikael Hafstrom (1408) comes the epic espionage thriller Shanghai starring John Cusack (1408) and international superstars Gong Li (Miami Vice, Memoirs of a Geisha) and Ken Watanabe (Letters from Iwo Jima, The Last Samurai).

Nothing is what it seems in this Casablanca-style international thriller set in the ancient Chinese city a week before the attack on Pearl Harbour. U.S. secret agent Paul Soames (Cusack) has just arrived to investigate the murder of his best friend, only to become quickly immersed in a web of conspiracy and lies that beset the city. Shadowed by a Japanese intelligence officer, Tanaka (Watanabe), Soames' investigation quickly centers on a charismatic local gangster, Anthony Lanting - and Lanting's beautiful wife, Anna (Li). Before long, Soames and Anna are involved in an affair that will put everything they have at stake. As national loyalties are traded fast-and-loose for those of the heart, Soames and Anna must race to solve the mystery and make it out of occupied China before the city's collapse.

Video

Noble Entertainment release spy thriller Shanghai onto Blu-ray in Scandinavia using an AVC MPEG-4 codec and in 1080p. Unfortunately, it has been rather heavily cropped to 1.78:1 from the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

It's difficult to review the picture quality of a movie that has been heavily filtered and is intentionally quite soft throughout. I imagine the director of photography Benoît Delhomme, did this purposely to give us a period feel to the feature, and whilst it does work very well, I did find the loss of sharpness and detail did cause the transfer to feel underwhelming. Apart from the skin tones, colours look reasonable, especially the copious shades of yellows and browns, but blacks are inconsistent. Although there is some good detail on faces, background objects are dull and lack depth. Shadow detail on the other hand, is virtually non-existent. As should be expected from such a recent movie, there are no signs of any major damage, such as scratches, though there was very occasional artefacting. Filmed on 35mm, there is a fine layer of natural film grain throughout.

The features runs 104:17.

Audio

Two audio options have been provided for this release:
- English/Chinese/Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English/Chinese/Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1

For obvious reasons, I went for the DTS-HD Master Audio track, which was good, but far from great. Shanghai is very much a dialogue driven feature, with many scenes featuring conversations between two characters in quiet rooms. Due to this, it is expected that the surrounds are not overly used, but the score does utilise them well when required. Other than the score, surrounds are used for the occasional effect only, such as rainfall, a gunshot and general chatter. Directionality is good, as is channel separation. Dialogue is clear at all times, with volume levels consistent throughout. There are no drop outs or scratches, and I noticed no background hiss.

Optional subtitles are available in Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish. Non-English dialogue has burnt-in English subtitles.

Extras

None.

Overall

The Film: C+ Video: C- Audio: B- Extras: F Overall: C

 


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