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The Courier (Blu-ray Review)

It doesn’t feel like it happens a lot anymore, but in the case of The Courier, titles can be changed from theatrical release to home video or whatnot. Sure, some get subtitles or shortened versions of their titles when they come to home video/digital. But, The Courier premiered at Sundance about a year and half ago and it was at that time titled Ironbark. That’s a much more interesting title, though The Courier is safer and does suit the film as well. So Ironbark is arriving on Blu-ray as The Courier and comes with a nifty little featurette on the making of the film along with the DVD and a digital copy of the movie. The film was released on Blu-ray on June 1st and you’re able to order it using the Amazon link below.

Film

The true story of a British businessman unwittingly recruited into one of the greatest international conflicts in history. Forming an unlikely partnership with a Soviet officer hoping to prevent a nuclear confrontation, the two men work together to provide the crucial intelligence used to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Courier, formerly Ironbark, is a nice spy film in the tradition of a procedural affair. That’s pretty much because the film finds itself based on actual events and on actual people. Calling it a standard kind of affair is a bit of underselling the film, but in terms of how this one presents itself and plays out, I can’t think of another word. While the film is quite competently and well made, its akin to that of a film that doesn’t bring much to be a theatrical affair and feels like it feels right at home as a top tier streaming or straight to Blu-ray title. And I mean that in a positive fashion.

Performers are pretty top notch here. Benedict Cumberbatch (Who also serves as a producer) is his normal rock solid self, sporting a mustache. What really drives and works here is his chemistry and exchanges with Merab Ninidze which drive the film. The two bring to the film a sense of respect and a sense of urgency that really sells this as a high class act. Their relationship also feels present when the two are apart for scenes. Rachel Brosnahan is a nice addition to the cast as well, and really brings a nice added element of some pep to keep it from being a completely drab affair.

One thought that came to mind when watching the film. And its not a knock The Courier, but the whole biopic/period story as a whole, when watching the film. But it seems when making these films, the option for have a strong sense of style in the look, feel, editing, cinematography and such goes out the window. There seems to be a safe, standard template for these things. Be it something like Bohemian Rhapsody, Walk The Line or The King’s Speech. Yes, sometimes things get a tad edgy, like the case of Oliver Stone’s The Doors, but those are rather few and far between. It’d be nice to see people taking some liberties or getting crazy in some aspect of these stories. Think more Ed Wood.

The Courier is a solid watch for an afternoon and provides a neat little tale of Cold War spy antics in a tamed, realistic fashion. Performances are strong and its a really solidly made film. I’m not sure it really hits any aspect in an above and beyond sort of way. But, it does make for a solid curiosity or rental.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The Courier arrives on Blu-ray with a rather terrific transfer. The image is quite crisp and sharp. Every person, every object looking pretty well rounded. Details are quite strong, contrast very good. The colors in the frame are pretty bold and pronounced looking with good saturation. Its a normal, digital image, but to a pretty high degree.

Depth:  Depth of field is quite strong here and plenty apparent in the dolly camera movements which showcase a good separation and pushback of setting and characters/objects. Movements are natural and smooth with not jitter or distortions present.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and plenty inky. No issues occur from details or textures being lost in shadows or darkened fabrics/surfaces in the picture. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: This one has a rather “regular” or natural look to it to go with a very cold, Russian setting. There are some moments where lights and such with give it a pop, but a lot of this is rustic and natural with bold representations of those grays and browns.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are slightly colder and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures are quite clear and visible from any given distance in the frame. +

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Descriptive Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: While The Courier doesn’t demand a big 5.1 boisterous presentation, the 5.1 mix is a rather nice, airy experience. A lot of the action happens up front. The mix is pretty well balanced with vocals being top priority but next being overbearing or not feeling part of the full picture. Good depth and layering in the effects leads to some nice to the touch feel to the scenes.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: There isn’t a lot of boom in this movie, but there are some car engines, gunshots, slamming doors and such that do get a nice extra thud from the subwoofer to accentuate their power.

Surround Sound Presentation: As mentioned above, most things happen at the front of the room and feature some nice, accurate travel back and forth. Rear channels feature some nice room ambiance and at times some good unique additions for some off screen antics.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.

Extras

The Courier comes with the DVD edition and a redeemable digital code of the film.

On The Brink: Making The Courier (HD, 29:03) – A rather more in depth featurette with interviews from much of the cast and crew and stronger in detail and depth than any EPK type thing.

Summary

The Courier is a pretty rock solid historical period biography type picture that is loaded with some good costume/set design and strong performances from the cast. This Blu-ray has a strong performance in audio and video as well. It comes with a pretty above standard featurette, making this a decent little pick-up for those looking to snag it.

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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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