Eastern Promises (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 5 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

In all fairness, this reviewer thinks when it came to giving the Best Picture award in 2005, the Academy gave its prestigious honor to Crash but it was another year where they gave it to the wrong picture and that picture wasn’t even nominated in that category. It was A History of Violence and the effect it left through its short running time still sticks with me and reminds me of what the real Best Picture was that year. A few years later, director David Cronenberg gives another intriguing tale set in England and told in another short running time but when a tale like Eastern Promises can be told in this visionary’s eyes, one asks “Who’s paying attention to the clock?”

A slit throat and a pregnant girl give off blood to tell two intersecting tales of a diary of that girl discovered by a midwife (Naomi Watts) and the translation by a older gentleman (Armin Mueller Stahl)who holds rich parties. Unknownst to her is a slick haired Russian chauffeur who notices her motorcycle and is an indicator although it’s memorable and nice inside, things are not what they seem for its a front for an underworld of many dirty dealings including two sides playing off each other and a power struggle that leads to another life created in this dark world.

When I had first viewed this film, I felt that something might have been missing in the middle. Sadly, that was a result of tiredness. On second viewing, I viewed a much better film that had something in the middle but left me wanting a follow up right away. Yes it leaves some unanswered questions but I had gotten so involved with the film that I honestly didn’t want to see it end and felt this was the first part of a bigger film. But despite that, Eastern Promises done very well and truly a film that benefits from repeat viewing and with all the solid acting and storytelling by all I say bring on the second tale if at all possible.

Video: How does it look?

“Eastern Promises” is a rather interesting film in terms of the physical look and feel of it. The movie is somewhat dark that couples rather nicely with the tone of the movie. Lots of earthy tones are used and I was hard-pressed to find much, if anything, wrong wit the way this looks. Universal’s 1.85:1 VC-1 HD transfer is outstanding and I even had to break out my old standard DVD to see if it really looked that good then. Turns out it did, but this Blu-ray looks even better. Flesh tones are a bit muted, but it’s the little things like the detail of the fak tatoos on Mortensen’s body that really made me take a second look. Amazing. Fans will be thrilled with this first rate transfer, for sure.

Audio: How does it sound?

The HD DVD of “Eastern Promises” featured a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack but this Blu-ray has what Universal has seemed to adopt: a DTS Master Audio track. The track doesn’t have a lot of action in it, as the movie is fairly dialogue-driven. There are a few of scenes that really made the track noticeable, but by and large there isn’t a lot to get excited about.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This Blu-ray ports over the same features from the HD DVD and standard DVD and even adds a couple more. “Secrets and Stories” features an interview with director David Cronenberg and some of the crew. We don’t get a lot of substance here, mainly what it took to create the script and the research that went into it. “Marked for Life” concentrates on the more physical aspect of the art of tatooing. Actor Viggo Mortensen explains some of his art and the meaning behind it. The additional two featurettes are pretty much fluff, “Two Guys Walk into a Bath House” shows the climactic knife scene and “Watts on Wheels” focuses on actress Naomi Watts trying to learn how to ride a motorcycle. Wow. Provocative.

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