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DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
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The Killing Fields Blu-ray ReviewBlu-ray Warner
- Studio: Warner Brothers
- Distributed By: N/A
- Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 2.0 DD
- Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
- Rating: R
- Run Time: 2 Hr. 22 Min.
- Package Includes: Blu-ray
- Case Type:
- Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
- Region: A
- Release Date: 01/07/2014
- MSRP: $27.98
The Production Rating: 4.5/5In 1973, as the War in Vietnam has spilled into neighboring Cambodia, New York Times journalist Sydney Schanberg (Sam Waterston) arrives in the capital city of Phnom Penh to report on the events. With the assistance of Cambodian translator and guide Dith Pran (Haing Ngor) and American photographer Al Rockoff (John Malkovich), Schanberg tirelessly works to document the bloody conflict between the Cambodian national army and communist insurgents known as the Khmer Rouge.
Within two years of Schanberg’s arrival, the Khmer Rouge overthrow the government, taking over Phnom Penh in mid-April of 1975. Due to the United States’ anti-communist, military action in the region, Schanberg and his American colleagues are instantly in harm’s way, but Pran manages to get them out of imminent danger by negotiating with their captors. Though still unable to leave the city, Pran and the Americans eventually find asylum in the French Embassy, though in the end the French ambassador’s negotiations with the new Cambodian government requires the surrender of all Cambodian nationals, to an uncertain fate. Unable to secure safe passage for Pran, Schanberg ultimately must say goodbye to his brother-in-arms, with little hope of ever seeing him alive. Indeed, as Pran comes to see what the Khmer Rouge have in mind for the country and those it deems a threat, death – whether of the body or the soul – seems like an inevitability.
Based on actual events and experiences of those who survived the Khmer Rouge’s house of horrors, Roland Joffé’s The Killing Fields continues to be a visceral and haunting tale. As it was in 1984, much of the film’s emotional impact rests on the shoulders of first-time actor Ngor, who depicts Pran simply, but bravely, as he draws on his own nightmarish fight to survive the Khmer Rouge regime (though, sadly, Ngor would lose his life to senseless violence some 12 years later). Ngor’s portrayal is one that honors both the subject and the audience with its vulnerability and honesty, and it’s fitting he was awarded an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Though Waterston is technically the film’s lead, turning in a convincing performance as the dogged but ultimately guilt-ridden Schanberg, the heart of the film undeniably belongs to Ngor.
Less appreciated (at least after 30 years) are the film’s sometimes heavy handed music cues. Given the sensitive nature of the events, the graphic images and emotional situations speak well enough on their own without the score’s occasionally distracting and manipulative approach. Fortunately, such tactics can be counted on one hand – enough to make note of them, but not enough to rob the film of its enduring resonance.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
Framed at 1.78:1 (a slight modification from its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio) and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer is pleasingly filmlike. Viewers should be delighted by the healthy grain levels, solid blacks, and uncompromised contrast. Color is also deep and nicely saturated, looking particularly exceptional during the iconic sunset shot and various views of the jungle. Detail also holds up nicely, resolving fine patterns in skin and fabrics in close ups and maintaining overall definition in wide shots.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5Dialogue in the 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently crisp, clear and intelligible, outside of a few extras with thicker accents that may require the engagement of subtitles. The soundstage is also impressively wide for a two-channel track, most notable during an early scene involving military helicopters as well with various combat sequences. At the same time, deep bass (nevermind LFE) is noticeably lacking in those instances, though of course less of an issue for the rest of the movie.
Special Features: 1.5/5
- Audio Commentary with Director Roland Joffé
- Theatrical Trailer (2:29, HD)
- Collectible Book: Incorporated into the packaging, the high quality printed material provides historical background on the story, details about the film adaptation, cast and crew biographies, and promotional and production photographs.