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August 19, 2007
Legends of the Fall - Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
13/1/199514/11/2007Sony PicturesEdward Zwick
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
MPEG-2DD5.1 448kbps
PCM 4.6Mbps
MBrad Pitt

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Brad Pitt and the beautiful Julia Ormond.
If you like epic movies such as Dances with Wolves, Gone with the Wind, The Last Samurai then Legends of the Fall is probably a movie you should also check out. It was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Cinematography (which was its sole winner), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Sound. The cast includes some of the strongest actors of the time and was directed by Edward Zwick who has also directed movies including Blood Diamond, The Last Samurai, and Glory.

Legends of the Fall is based on the novel by Jim Harrison. Set in the early 20th Century storyline follows three Ludlow bothers - Tristan (Brad Pitt), Alfred (Aidan Quinn), and Samuel (Henry Thomas) as they live their lives on and around a property in Rocky Mountains of Montana with their father (played by Anthony Hopkins). When the brothers decide to head to war it breaks their fathers heart, and soon splits the family as each brother falls in love with the same woman (Julia Ormond).

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Learning how to get your gun off.
It must be said, that this is very much a story driven movie. Don't expect any glamorous special effects or intense battle sequence - the battle in World War I is quite small in scale compared to many movies we're used to today. Where this movie shines is the strength of the screenplay, and the superb acting from the entire cast. As normal Anthony Hopkins plays his role perfectly, be it during his prime prior to suffering a major stroke, or in his declining years following it. The three brothers are played superbly, however it's a young Brad Pitt that truly shines as the troubled Tristan. While not his first role, it was one of his biggest prior to Se7en, Twelve Monkeys, and Fight Club. The story revolves around the events of his life and while a little wooden at times the performance is certainly memorable. All of this would be for nothing though if the leading lady couldn't pull off believability of the love triangle. Fortunately Julia Ormond as Susannah is also up to the task as she wrestles with her heart and emotions through the movie leading up to the climactic finale which - it must be said - took me by surprise.

Admittedly not my favourite genre this movie is one that had me captivated from start to finish. There are a few twists and turns, but it's also a little predictable in places. Having said that if you haven't seen Legends of the Fall then it's certainly recommended.

The transfer of Legends of the Fall is presented in the movies original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 using the MPEG-2 codec. For the most part the bitrate hovers around the 25-30 Mbps mark which should provide a pretty nice image quality - we've certainly seen other Blu-Ray discs with this bitrate provide impressive results. Sadly that's not the case here - not by a long shot. I'm sorry to report that this is probably the most inconsistent transfer we've seen on Blu-Ray to date. From the very first moments there are problems. The opening credits are burdened with telecine wobble and within the first few seconds of the disc starting you'll notice some terrible colour banding in the trees with sharp edges between reds and blacks - it looks like a macro blocking effect. That's pretty bad, but skip to 34:00 and have a look at the colouring in the skies as the flares go off. The transfer is also riddle with film artifacts throughout including film grain and dirt - it does become distracting while some other scenes appear a bit soft and not as sharp as we would expect from a HD transfer. It's clear that Sony Pictures have done nothing to clean this image up.

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Costume work is impressive.
Despite the technical flaws this is still a beautiful movie to look at thanks to the gorgeous cinematography from John Toll. Most of the picture was filmed in Canada, and the scenery is quite stunning - but even when the film moves into cities, indoors or to the battlefields of World War I it still looks impressive with great scale and attention to detail.

Overall this is probably one of the worst transfers video wise to Blu-Ray to date. Sure, some of the issues can be put down to the age of the film, and perhaps a couple to the original source material, but there are far too many compression, dirt and other errors here to be happy with. Now having said that we have to point out that, as with all Blu-Ray discs, this will still give you a better picture then DVD's, it's just no where near what we've come to expect from the next-generation format.

Fortunately the audio on this disc fares quite a bit better then the video. The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound track runs at 448kbps which is a little better then the 384kbps on the latest DVD release but still leaves something to be desired compared to other discs with Dolby Digital 640kbps audio, or higher. Fortunately there is another (much better) options. That is the Linear PCM audio track which runs at an impressive 4.6Mbps. It certainly adds a bit more clarity to the audio. Speech is always clear and easy to understand and while there's limited use of the surround channels and sub-woofer what is there is used to good effect. What I really did enjoy about this movie is the glorious music score by James Horner. He's worked on many movies and TV shows (according to IMDB he's up to 135 projects now!) but this is one score that I think stands out.

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Two of the hottest actors on screen.
For a movie with such a stellar cast, and loyal following I was hopeful that Sony Pictures would pack it full of interesting extras. At the very least I would have expected Sony Pictures to copy over at least some of the extras on the superb 2-disc DVD set which comes packed with an Audio Commentary by director Edward Zwick and star Brad Pitt, Audio Commentary by director of Photography John Toll and production designer Lilly Kilvert, 3 never-before-seen deleted scenes with optional commentary by Edward Zwick, Isolated Track of James Horner's music score with 'Jump to' highlights menu, Behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the movie with cast and crew interviews, Behind-the-scenes featurette on the film's production design, Original Movie Trailer, and Talent Profiles. So what do you get on this Blu-Ray disc? Nothing at all. Not even a trailer.

I had never seen this movie in its entirety prior to receiving this Blu-Ray disc, it wasn't one that appealed to me. What I discovered though was a very interesting tale with some terrific acting, gorgeous locations and the odd unexpected twist here and there. The other positive with this disc is the audio which, giving the inclusion of the PCM audio track, is quite impressive. Unfortunately there are no extras at all on the disc, and the transfer - ignoring the higher resolution which is an obvious benefit - is one that we wouldn't find acceptable on DVD. Sadly Legends of the Fall is the worst Blu-Ray disc we've reviewed to date.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Sony Pictures. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.