Parts Per Billion (Blu-ray Review)

Parts Per Billion - www.whysoblu.comParts Per Billion tells the story of three couples which are forced to make life altering decisions in the face of a disastrous war that threatens to destroy the human race. Inspired and sometimes blinded by their love, Len, Mia, Andy, Esther, Anna and Erik are as flawed and beautiful as any of the billions who are facing this human-made biological disaster.



Parts Per Billion


I’m always game for an apocalyptic thriller and Parts Per Billion seems to want to fill that void for me. It’s got a pretty cool ensemble cast featuring Josh Hartnett, Frank Langella, and Rosario Dawson among others. War has started up again in the Middle East and a viral contagion has been released eradicating much of the Middle East along with most of Europe but fear not, because the USA is safe from the poisonous gas cloud that doesn’t show any signs of crossing the Atlantic to vaporize us all. Several couples live in New York and go about their daily and mundane lives but do it together. Len (Josh Hartnett) and Mia (Rosario Dawson) is one couple that seems to be happy in bliss along with Anna (Teresa Palmer) and Erik (Penn Badgley) and Andy (Frank Langella) and Esther (Gena Rowlands).

None of those couples ever meet but each of their stories is supposed to shed light on what’s going on while showing us, the audience, what is going on in their personal lives. How are they coping with the end of the world and will they survive the inevitable apocalypse. I think Len and Mia’s relationship plays the best along with Andy and Esther’s. In fact, more so, with Andy an Esther’s, because Andy was one of the scientists that worked on the viral agent that was released in the Middle East and is suffering form intense remorse. Parts Per Billion really dulls up during most of Anna and Erik’s scenes, because their characters are written badly. Okay, not badly, they’re just boring people that I couldn’t give two craps about. Their conversations are vapid and meaningless and the fact they looked and sounded like they didn’t care about anything of importance made me not care either.

Mia and Len are somewhere in the middle, because Len is set up as the provider and “leader of men” when it comes to Mia but constantly cracks under pressure. There’s another man introduced that post the moves on Mia and she accepts his advances, because she was missing something her life and Len was just always there. Len’s a very predictable guy. Even when things are going into the crapper as people drop dead around them. Len would rather shack up in solitude in order to survive while Mia wants to get out there and explore other options. They’re relationship is filled with turmoil.

Honestly, some might question why I would give Parts Per Billion such a low score and the fact of the matter is that it’s just a dull film with some dull and in likable characters. I do believe that if Anna and Erik’s characters were better written then the film would be better overall. Seriously, everything comes to screeching fault when they’re onscreen and it’s not even due to them not having chemistry together, because they do, but because their characters really are that boring.

I did like the several instances of breaking news segments that kept popping up all over the place, which gave the film a sense of urgency that if people didn’t flee or seek shelter they would be toast. Parts Per Billion is obviously a low budget film, so vast scenes of chaos and destruction cannot be recreated on the low end. Overall, I wish the film was better, because I really want to like it but only ended up liking a few things about it.

Parts Per Billion


Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: It’s an intentionally drab film and unfortunately the Blu-ray quality in the video department reflects that. Contrast is heavily boosted while reaming sharp. Softness is present throughout. I’m sure it was all due to aesthetics but this stylistic choice transfers over to the Blu-ray.

Depth: You would think Parts Per Billion takes place in England or somewhere equally gloomy but the overall image is a bit flat and cold. Oh, those pesky aesthetics.

Black Levels: Black levels are fine with only a couple of scenes where black crush was present.

Color Reproduction: The color palette is active during scenes of peace before the virus cloud reaches stateside but once it does hit the palette turns really gloomy.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are fine until folks start getting sick and dying.

Noise/Artifacts: I detected only a few spots here and there that had debris and grit but was okay all things considered.


Parts Per Billion


Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: Parts Per Billion is not an action packed movie at all. It’s more of a somber drama and the lossless TrueHD soundtrack reflects this. It’s a front heavy affair and the rest of the speakers just serve to enhance the front field. That’s not to say it doesn’t sound great, because it does sound great.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel kept it on the down low for the majority of its running time. No, there are no explosions or zombie hordes to take advantage of the lossless surround sound track.

Surround Sound Presentation: Surround sound presence was used more in terms of ambience, with only a few instances of chaos in the background.

Dialogue Reproduction: Parts Per Billion is a dialogue driven film and it fits the bill in the regard. Dialogue levels are clean and sharp and there were no instances of clipping and distortion.


Parts Per Billion


Previews for other films are not special features. It’s like saying “scene access” is a special feature from the early days of DVD.

Parts Per Billion


Parts Per Billion has an interesting premise that is squandered by the characters and their selfish motives. The film has a message in there somewhere but goes nowhere. The Blu-ray itself is no better. The video is a wee bit on the dull side and the audio is above average but the lack of extras is a major buzz kill since that will drag the score way down. Parts Per Billion is a huge letdown.


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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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