Plot: What’s it about?
Jack Terri (John Travolta) has a rather unusual job, as he records special effects for horror movies, to enhance the experience. He is a master sound technician and is able to capture a lot of unique, effective sound effects, via various methods. At times, he is even surprised by the nature of some of his recordings, but never as much as in this case. As he was doing some sampling for a project, he heard a strange noise and recorded it, right off the bat. It turns out the noises were part of an automobile accident and a bad one at that, one which killed a presidential candidate and injured the man’s mistress, Sally (Nancy Allen). As Jack delves deeper into the accident, he discovers it could have been a political assassination, which his recordings could help prove, of course. But he begins to put together more and more pieces, all the while aware of the potential danger involved. Has Jack recorded evidence that the accident was no accident, or has his work on all those horror movies tainted his mind?
If you ask me, Blow Out is one of those movies that is great as you watch it, then not so good once you think about what you’ve just seen. But even as I watched it again and again, it was rich with suspense and held my attention, even with logic problems and such. So if you just sit back and watch, Blow Out is an engrossing suspense thriller, with good performances, a solid premise, and ample direction. But if you go in with a critical mindset, you’ll note all the plot holes, missteps, and other flaws, which of course, lessens the experience. As such, I recommend just letting the flick entertain you, even if you’re one of those people who love to find all possible flaws, which is a habit I find very annoying, without a doubt. DePalma’s direction is good, Travolta’s performance is great, and the movie keeps you glued to the action, which is about all we can ask of a thriller, I think.
I don’t think Blow Out is one of director Brian DePalma’s best overall films, but I do think his writing here is superb, perhaps his best work in that respect. I know it is flawed at times, but DePalma supplies a complex, well executed storyline and it is a good one, with a lot of nice twists and unexpected stops. In terms of direction, DePalma is his usual self and while not at the top of his form, his work is still more than solid. He fills the running time with tension and well lined visuals, but the real emphasis is on sound, which is another reason I like this one so much. Yet he still manages to borrow from other sources, as we expect from DePalma, although not as much as usual, which is good news in this case.
Video: How does it look?
Eagle-eyed viewers will know that this is now the second incarnation of the film from Criterion. The first version came out in 2011 sporting a new 2K transfer. Times and technology change and now the film has been given a new 4K remaster and the result is…stunning. Criterion’s efforts always push the limits of what technology is able to accomplish, but with this new 4K version the movie has never looked better. Detail gets a lot of improvement while I found the entire palette to be a bit more homogenized. Black levels seem a bit better as well, too. It’s a dark movie, to be sure, so the 2.39:1 HEVC 4K image does stretch the limits of the screen, but there were a few jaw-dropping moments for me. This is, by far, the most definitive version of Blow Out see it again for the first time?
Audio: How does it sound?
The same DTS HD 2.0 surround track found on the previously-released Blu-ray is also present here. Given the subject matter of the film itself (a man whose job it is to record sound effects for horror movies) this is a very vivid and encompassing track. While it might not have the muscle to stick with today’s soundtracks, this is a very unique track that will satisfy the viewer. Also worth mention is the rather odd score by Pino Donaggio that I find words hard to do it justice.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This two disc set only has supplements found on the included Blu-ray.
- Murder a la Mod (1967) – Director Brian de Palma’s experimental film. It’s…interesting to say the least and if you look closely, it can be seen being watched during the feature film. This film was thought to be lost until it was found in 2006.
- Louis Goldman Photographs – Some production stills from the film taken by, you guessed it, Louis Goldman.
- Garret Brown Interview – The man himself, the one who invented the stedicam, is profiled.
- Nancy Allen Interview – Next up is Nancy Allen (aka the former “Mrs. Brian De Palma”) as she tells us some stories of the set and how her character grew.
- Illustrated Booklet – Critic Michael Sragow and Pauline Kael’s original New Yorker interview is included in the accompanying illustrated booklet.
- Noah Baumbach Interviews Brian de Palma – We get director Brian De Palma as he gives us his thoughts and as he talks with Noah Baumbach about the movie and all of its technical merits. Running at nearly an hour, there’s some good information here.
The Bottom Line
Blow Out is considered by many to be Brian de Palma’s best work. There will be naysayers, of course, but one thing can’t be denied – this looks flat out fantastic. It’s up to you if you feel the need to have this 4K version in your collection (to replace the old Blu-ray, no doubt). The extras are ported over so there’s nothing new here, but you’ll have that warm feeling knowing that you’ve got the best-looking version of the film.