Rocky Mountain Express (Blu-ray Review)

Rocky-Mountain-ExpressShout! Factory will release the breathtaking IMAX® films Flight of the Butterflies and Rocky Mountain Express next in their line-up of 4K UHD films, following the incredible odyssey Journey to Space. Flight of the Butterflies will be available in a 4K UHD / 3-D Blu-ray set, as well as a stand-alone Blu-ray, and Rocky Mountain Express will be available in a 4K UHD / Blu-ray set, and as a stand-alone Blu-ray. Both titles offer exciting bonus features unavailable anywhere else.  Bonus features for Rocky Mountain Express include “Railroaders,” an inspiring 22 minute documentary by Guy Cote about the stretch of railroad featured in the film, and the Oscar-nominated animated short film from 1952 “The Romance of Transportation in Canada,” which was directed by Colin Low, the father of Stephen Low, who directed Rocky Mountain Express.

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Rocky Mountain Express propels audiences on a steam train journey through the breathtaking vistas of the Canadian Rockies and relates the epic adventure of building the nation’s first transcontinental railway. Filmed on authentic 15 perf. 70 MM negative, and originally exhibited in IMAX® theaters, Rocky Mountain Express is the perfect film for enjoying the new 4K HDR UHD technology. With dozens of cameras on board the train and filmed above by helicopters, Rocky Mountain Express provides a truly immersive experience.

Retracing the original route aboard the majestic steam engine 2816, the film transports the audience back to the age of steam to re-live this alpine nation-building odyssey. The film weaves together spectacular aerial cinematography, breathtaking vistas of the west, archival photographs and maps and the potent energy and rhythms of a live steam train. Viewers will be drawn in to discover some of the most beautiful and rugged landscapes on earth and the heroic human drama and epic engineering that shaped a continent.

Wow, first thing I want to point out is the cinematography on this thing.  Rocky Mountain Express is absolutely breathtaking to look at.  There are shots through mountains and such that are completely awing and gorgeous.  The camera movements and smooth way with which is tracks its way around and with the trains is such a marvel making this film appear to be larger than life.  No, its not IMAX while you’re at home, but this thing is shot in such a way that some of the “feels” really work their way to the living room viewing experience.  Truly, this thing is gifted in the visual department.

The film’s story is that of overcoming challenges and having the ingenuity of getting trains to travel through the mountain tops.  For those train enthusiasts, it includes a rich history lesson with plenty of discussion on the body works and engineering of the transportation vehicles.  And this film really captures the beauty, grace and industrial nature of the locomotives.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail:  Rocky Mountain Express looks incredibly stunning and beautiful in this transfer.  Detail, sharpness and clarity are top tier here.  Clouds looks great as well as all the little bits and fine details of the locomotives themselves.  For this review the Blu-ray version was used, and you can only imagine that the 4K UHD disc takes this to a whole other level in terms of crisp smoothness and color saturation.

Depth:  This one didn’t have a 3D Blu-ray with it, and I’m surprised as it looks like it could have been a fun right.  The cinematography blasts a very multidimensional, free flowing image that is smooth moving.

Black Levels:  Rich and deep.  Dark scenes provide good use of shadows and still provided good detail.  Black objects like the trains still carry texture and pattern.

Color Reproduction:  Colors here are rich and bold.  The rustic look of mountains, be it rock and dirt look quite lovely.  Greens of forests and the blue of the sky look grand.  Also, the blacks, grays and such of the trains is deep and sleek looking.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones when available are natural and consistent for the duration.  Facial details prop up at any distance with perfect clarity.

Noise/Artifacts:  Absolutely nothing but beauty to see here.

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Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  This powerful track makes for one hell of a viewing experiencing on a freaking documentary of all things!  The sound of the trains is so well thought out, layered, full and detailed it might as well be traveling outside your window.  Accompany that with a good full sounding narrative and a scoring that lovely weaves through your speakers and you have a nice balanced mix.  For this review the 7.1 TrueHD track was used, but there were moments that you could just image a lot of the overhead impact of the Atmos track.

Low Frequency Extension:  Train engines roaring and passing by give a terrific rumble through the subwoofer.  When they “choo choo” also gives a deep boost.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Each of the 7 channels is full and accurately represented here.  There are some stunning moments of movement from speaker to speaker as trains roll by.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Crisp, full and clear.

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This edition of Rocky Mountain Express contains the 4K UHD copy of the film.

NFB Videos

  • The Romance of Transportation In Canada (HD, 10:56) – An Oscar winning vintage animated short documenting the history of transportation vehicles in Canada.
  • Railroaders (HD, 21:20) – Documentary by Guy Cote about the stretch of railroad featured in the film

About The Director – A brief paragrah/bio page

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Rocky Mountain Express tells itself a nice history of taking trains through the mountains in Canada.  But, it didn’t have too.  The photography on the film is so amazing, that it could have just been shots of trains following their course accompanied by music.  This 4K UHD / Blu-ray presentation crushes it in terms of visuals and audio presentation.  You’ll want to see and just take this whole thing in.  Using this as a demo in a store would probably push some extra units.




Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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