Just recently nominated for eight Oscars, Kenneth Branagh’s coming-of-age tale BELFAST arrives on Blu Ray today. I was lucky enough to see BELFAST as one of the final screenings of last September’s Toronto International Film Festival and it made my Top 10, after it won the audience award. Here’s what I said:
Kenneth Branagh is one prolific filmmaker; having directed everything from my favourite Shakespeare adaptation of HAMLET in 70mm back in 1996 to more recent Marvel movies and studio pictures, here he has went back to his childhood in a stunning coming of age story that centres on late 60’s Belfast showing the family bonds and political strife all crashing together at the same time. What’s fascinating is how the movie manages to find a good balance between heavy political drama while still remaining a charming slice-of-life story. While there is great contributions by Catriona Balfe (FORD V FERRARI) and Jamie Dornan (ENDINGS BEGINNINGS), the real winner here is young Jude Hill as the young Branagh-type character who lovingly keeps his head above his shoulders throughout all of the changes in his place in the world. Oh, and BELFAST has some of the best scenes IN a cinema I have seen in quite a long time, reminding us of the power of going out to the movies.
About The Blu Ray:
Universal has released a very nice looking Blu Ray, however in true Managing Editor fashion I redeemed the included Google Play code which redeemed in full on 4k/HDR, so I watched the whole movie this way on my Chromecast. And WOW, what a great looking transfer! Framed perfectly in its original 1.85 aspect ratio, the opening shots of modern Belfast pop off the screen with incredible detail, and then when it switches to black and white there is even more detail in both close-ups and wide shots. It’s somewhat subtle at times but you really get a sense of time and place with the decision of black & white.
I sampled some scenes in the Blu Ray and it too is stunning. Shot digitally, the movie has a very stylized look that really stands out when watching it on home video. The occasional bursts of color REALLY stand out, especially when the entire family go to the movies or a play and the sudden bursts of color are some of my favourite moments in recent movies. The 5.1 audio in DTS Master Audio also has moments of powerful surrounds and deep bass at times, and also Van Morrison’s song selections also play nice and loud on the soundtrack. Overall this is very close to what I saw in 4k at TIFF last fall.
On the features front, the star here is a solid commentary track from Kenneth Branagh, a man who doesn’t seem to stop working. Here he gives a pretty loose, free-wheeling screen specific commentary and has a lot of insight on Belfast’s history, then and now. Also included are some deleted scenes and an alternate ending, as well as a production featurette that shows Branagh’s process very well.
So the way I see it? Buy this Blu Ray, redeem the digital code and watch the feature in 4k, then use the Blu Ray for the special features. I’m weird like that.
BELFAST is now available on Blu Ray. Many thanks to Universal PR for sending along a copy for review.