Earlier last year, the majority of film critics and audiences were blown away with director Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to The Dark Knight, Inception. Inception is a film we’ve already reviewed here at fernbyfilms.com, and you can follow this link to read it, but we thought we’d have a shot at giving you our thoughts on the BluRay presentation of the film, released back in December. Whether you like the film (or are among the twelve people on planet Earth who did not…. fools!) is irrelevant to your enjoyment of this BluRay version of the film, for it represents one of the formats most impressive visual and aural presentations to date.
Released by Warner Brothers, whose attention to detail in all things DVD had become legendary, Inception looks and sounds absolutely stunning on BluRay. The film is presented in its original 2.40:1 aspect, and is free of any compression artefacts such as alaising or moiring. Colours are fantastic, black detail is sublime, and I was surprised to notice no banding or ringing around any bright spots in the film frame – particularly during the films’ snowbound third act. This image is razor sharp, generally, although I did notice a few small focus issues from time to time – I’m not technically minded enough to determine if this is a problem with the original film, or if this was indeed Nolan’s intent at those moments, but regardless of intent it did distract me enough to pull me from the film a little. Edge enhancement seemed (to my eyes) negligible, a facet of DVD compression that was the bane of many technical reviewer; of which I was one. It’s astonishing in its textural detail and almost 3D-ish depth of field, perhaps a testament to Nolan’s keen eye and polished sense of cinematic style. The muted tones and hushed palette of the various dream-worlds the cast inhabit is rendered perfectly, and I could find no obvious fault with what is, simply, a spectacular image presentation.
As with the Batman films Nolan’s directed, the audio mix on the resultant BluRay is nothing short of spectacular. The main audio track provided is in English, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix which is both enveloping and thunderous, while maintaining an intimacy and spatial closeness that’s great to listen to. From the dulcet tones of an at-times unintelligible Ken Wantanabe (his accent can prove a little hard to make out exactly what he’s saying) to the roar of a freight train thundering down Main Street Los Angeles, Inception’s audio mix is a home theatre tester of the first order. Dialogue is placed perfectly in the centre channel, a little forward of the main action, but never overpowering. Bass moves between audacious and chest-pounding – prior to watching this film I went back and recalibrated all the subwoofers and amplifier settings (I think my young daughter had played with one of the knobs, so a re-working was in order anyway) to a level I felt warranted by such a powerfully magnificent 5.1 mix. The surrounds get a fair workout, although primarily in the ambiance more than any direct action – that said, when they are required, the presence in the rear channels is superb and integrates perfectly into the rest of the audio mix.
The special features on this 2-Blu/1-DVD/1-Digital Copy edition include a facility known as “Maximum Extraction Mode”, a function that works a little like The Matrix DVD’s “follow The White Rabbit” – it takes you mid-movie into a background featurette on the segment of the film you’re currently watching, generally a technical “how did they achieve that” kind of thing which is actually pretty interesting. This feature can be played either by itself, or as you watch the film, extending Inception out to just over 3 hours if you choose the latter option. I did, and the seamless branching worked superbly, allowing the film to pause while I explored a little more about it.The second BluRay disc contains the bulk of the rest of the features, including a slightly interesting documentary on sleep and dreams, hosted by Inception actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s okay I suppose, but wouldn’t warrant more than one viewing. For me, though, the best part of this special features disc was the inclusion of nearly 40 minutes of Hans Zimmer’s amazing score for the film, presented free from dialogue and sound effects in it’s full DTS-HD 5.1 variant – for a score buff such as myself, this is wonderful to just slot into the disc player and crank up some Hans in full, uncompressed 5.1! Amazing. The films theatrical trailers and TV spots (none of which are given a 5.1 mix, which is surprising considering most other BluRays do the trailer in Dolby 5.1 at the very least!) are also included, as are a number of promotional and production posters and artworks. Art fans may appreciate the inclusion of one of those very weird “motion comics”, something I must say I don’t fully understand. Specialist stores have The Cobalt Job, which is the prequel story to Inception, as an actual comic book inside the disc case anyway, so including it as a moving variant seems somewhat redundant, but for collectors and avid fans, I guess you’ll be happy. The disc also comes with BD-Live functionality, something I cannot be bothered with considering the lack of actual decent content online for this stuff anyway. The special features, overall, are encompassing for even the most mediocre film on the market, but for a project as critically astonishing as this, I did expect a little more. Perhaps they’re saving something for later?
For me, the best thing about the Inception BluRay release is that Nolan and Co haven’t tried to explain their film in terms of it’s themes or nuances – and they have gone to great pains to make sure nobody spills any goss on that incredibly clever ending; instead, the featurettes supplied simply give you background on the more technical aspects of making the film, a facet I myself enjoyed, but the more cerebral may find boring after a while. I applaud Nolan for being astute enough to realise that by explaining his story to the audience, he’s giving away all the secrets, and if you have no secrets, what’s the point, right? On a technical level, Inception represents a superior video and audio presentation, and will give even the hardiest home cinema a genuine workout. Coupled with some watch-once featurettes and documentaries, I’d say regardless of your appreciation of Nolan or DiCaprio’s dramatic ability, Inception on Blu is highly recommended.