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HD DVD Review: Eastern Promises

Posted on Thursday, February 7th, 2008 2:08 PM by Scott Jentsch

Front Cover ArtworkEastern Promises
HD DVDHD DVD /DVD Combo Disc
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
101 minutes

List Price: $39.98 (Check Price at Amazon.com)

Available 12/23/2007

Rated R

Additional Movie Details

 TheatricalThis HD DVD
Video Format:
35mm 1080p VC-1
Aspect Ratio:1.85:1 1.85:1
Audio:

Dolby Digital

Dolby Digital Plus
Dolby TrueHD

 DTS 

HD DVD Side Contents

  • Movie
  • My Scenes - Allows for bookmarks and for customized start and end points.
  • Extras
    • Secrets and Stories (10:30 - HD VC-1)
      Insights behind the Russian Mafia and the other elements of the movie
    • Marked for Life (6:41 - HD VC-1)
      Tattoos as the life story of a criminal in Russia
  • Web-Enabled Features
    • Featurette 1 (1:52 - HD)
      David Cronenberg talks about the creative choices made for the bath house scene.
    • Featurette 2 (0:49 - HD)
      Naomi Watts riding a motorcycle for the first time
    • Trailer for Wanted (SD)
    • TV Spot for The Bourne Ultimatum (SD)
    • TV Spot for The Kingdom (SD)
    • Trailer for Heroes: Volume 1 (SD)
    • Universal HD DVD Sizzle Reel (SD)
    • Trailer for HD DVD: The Future of High Definition (SD)

DVD Side Contents

  • Up-front Ads
    • Atonement in Theaters
    • Lust, Caution Coming Soon
    • Reservation Road - coming Soon to HD DVD and DVD
    • Canvas - coming soon to DVD
    • HD DVD Promotional Trailer
  • Extras
    • Secrets and Stories
    • Marked for Life

About the Movie

David Cronenberg has been known for movies that aren't necessarily of the most straightforward or mainstream nature. Back in the 80's, he directed Jeff Goldblum in the remake of The Fly, which was a very different monster movie from the standard horror fare of that time. A History of Violence teamed Cronenberg with Viggo Mortensen in 2005 to critical acclaim, and they are working together again in this movie. Mortensen plays the driver to a Russian mafia family in London, who ends up developing a relationship of sorts with a midwife who is researching the background of a young girl who died in her hospital after delivering a baby daughter. This puts him between the midwife and the family patriarch who has a connection with the dead girl.

How Does it Look?

Screenshot

The picture quality is very good. While not perhaps the kind of subject material that one would want to use as demo material, the image is very lifelike and the colors of the London buildings and even in the dark interior shots are done well. I saw no artifacts or visual complications at all during the movie.

How Does it Sound?

This movie isn't going to make any audio demo reels either, but the dialogue is clear (important when there are a lot of unfamiliar accents being spoken) and the ambient effects in the surrounds are effective (like in the family restaurant scenes). The score is also very well done and plays its role very effectively.

Extras

I like to see the theatrical trailer included with movies, so I'm disappointed that they omitted one on this HD DVD. Even if the trailer was unavailable for some reason when they created this disc, the Web Extras feature makes it possible to include such content later, but well over a month after the disc's release, the trailer was not available on the Web Extras menu.

This is one movie where I actually went looking for a director's commentary track. There were some elements of the story that I was hoping could have been explained (the card Nikolai gives to the prostitute, for example), but alas, no commentary from anyone is present on either side of this disc. From what I understand of the HD DVD format, it would be possible to make such a commentary available in the web extras feature, so such a commentary could be added later. However, given the lack of imagination used when it came to the extras on this disc, I'm not holding my breath.

What extras are available are a little sparse. There are two features included on the disc in the form of a behind-the-scenes that is pretty standard on home video releases and a short documentary about the tattoos that are featured in the storyline and their relevance to the Russian mafia. The latter is more interesting than the former, but both add value to the movie.

This disc contains web-enabled extras, which is a great feature of the HD DVD format. The ability to add more content after the release of a disc is a valuable addition over the relatively static nature of the DVD format. Unfortunately, this disc does not leverage that advantage very well. The only features related to this movie are two very short clips that don't really add value to the movie-watching experience. At least they are in HD!

The other extras are generic promotional video clips for other Universal Studios movies and products. Adding to the insult of these non-special extras is that they aren't in HD. While I realize that they would have taken longer to download and may have had issues fitting in the limited memory on the player, when you have an HD player and an HD movie, you expect everything to be in HD.

Given the fact that Viggo Mortensen was just recently nominated for an Academy Award® for his performance, it would have been interesting to see some acknowledgement of this in those online materials. This is a lost opportunity provided by the HD DVD format, and one that I hope the studios will get better at leveraging in the future.

Conclusion

Eastern Promises is not going to be to everyone's liking. It's disturbing at times, graphic at other times, and doesn't have a "mainstream" ending. It is, however, a good movie, and well worth watching in my opinion.

The fact that this movie is available on a combo HD DVD / DVD disc, means that you can use it in both kinds of players (I'm watching it on a standard DVD player for a second time as I'm writing this review). If you're going to watch this movie or any other movie for that matter, it makes sense to watch it in the highest quality available, which is now the HD DVD version.

Recommended Reading

Don't just take our word for it, check out these resources for more reviews of the movie and of the HD DVD.

RentBuy

Check Prices on Amazon.com


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