Shanghai (Blu-ray) (2010)

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Released 10-May-2012

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Trailer-x 3 but not for this film
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 104:19
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Mikael Håfström
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring John Cusack
Li Gong
Yun-Fat Chow
David Morse
Ken Watanabe
Franka Potente
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Klaus Badelt


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English for the Hearing Impaired Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Descriptive Audio Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     With Europe at war and much of China under Japanese control, in the weeks before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour US Naval Intelligence officer Paul Soames (John Cusack), posing as a reporter, arrives in Shanghai to follow up links between Japan and Germany and to investigate the murder of his best friend and fellow spy, Connor (Jeffery Dean Morgan). In his search he quickly becomes embroiled in the shifting allegiances within the city between Shanghai Triad boss Anthony Lan-ting (Chow Yun-fat), his wife Anna (Gong Li) and the head of Japanese Intelligence Captain Tanaka (Ken Watanabe). As violence between the Japanese army and the Chinese resistance spills over into the streets, Paul has to be wary of the web of lies and deceit, and even more wary of falling in love with Anna. For, in this world, it seems love may be the ultimate betrayal.

     Shanghai had a troubled production; not least because three weeks before the shoot was due to commence in China the Chinese authorities withdrew permission to film, so the filmmakers had to recreate the Shanghai set in Thailand, making a massive hole in the budget and leading to the film getting a very limited theatrical release, and no release in the major USA or UK (or Australia) markets. That is a pity, as Shanghai is a stylish, entertaining thriller with a lot of good ingredients.

     For a start it looks fabulous. The colour scheme is deliberately muted with an almost sepia tint to many scenes, and especially the sequences in the dark and rainy streets of Shanghai give the film a very noir feel, a feel accentuated by the voice-over narration by the Cusack character. The detail in the interior sets, be they offices, homes or the casino, is wonderful, and the exteriors of the reconstructed Shanghai and CGI look great. Indeed, I am not a fan of excessive CGI but in Shanghai it is appropriate and well handled. The cinematography, by Benoit Delhomme (who has an Australian connection, winning a 2005 AFI award for his cinematography on The Proposition) is stunning. The original music score, by Klaus Badelt, adds to the epic feel of the film.

     Then there is an international cast to die for. Chow Yun-fat is older and more worn these days but the man retains an incredible charisma on screen and shows that he can still handle firearms with aplomb. Ken Watanabe is cold and ruthless but gives depth and a tinge of loneliness to what could be a stock villain role and Gong Li, now in her mid-forties, looks stunningly gorgeous, and can act. Franka Potente, as the wife of a German official seduced by Soames, has little to do. To my mind though John Cusack, although a good actor who does nothing wrong in the film, needs more gutsy masculinity to be a noir hero and his voiceover lacks the gruff authority to make it work.

     In the end Shanghai is an interesting, well made, period mystery thriller that boasts a fabulous look, a great cast and heaps of noir style. It takes itself a bit too seriously, and could use a dose of the wit that takes a film to a higher level, but it is entertaining, occasionally moving, and deserves an audience.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Shanghai is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original aspect ratio, in 1080p.

     This is an excellent print. It is sharp and clean, with the detail in the interior sets, be they offices, homes or the casino, nicely rendered. The colour scheme is deliberately muted with an almost sepia tint to many scenes; blacks are intense and shadow detail excellent in sequences in the dark and rainy streets of Shanghai. I did not notice any artefacts of any kind.

     Burnt in white subtitles occur when the characters speak in Chinese or Japanese. English subtitles for the hearing impaired can also be selected.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The default audio track is an immersive English DTS-HD MA 5.1, although an English audio description Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track at 640 Kbps may also be selected.

     Dialogue is centred but can sometimes be a bit unclear due to the accents of the non-English actors but the sense in usually clear and there are always the subtitles. The surrounds are constantly in action; the rain, cars, crowds in the streets and the casino, music and especially the crack of firearms. There are panning effects, often during the gun fights, but they are not overdone. The subwoofer adds frequent bass for the music, effects and explosions.

     The sound stage is nicely balanced, giving an excellent aural surround experience.

     The original score by Klaus Badelt is epic in scope, enhancing the visuals and adding to the film experience.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     Trailers for other films play on start-up, and must be skipped. They cannot be selected from the menu. The trailers are: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Ides of March and Machine Gun Preacher.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Other Blu-ray releases include a Region A US, Region A HK and Region A Japan that seem to be similar to our version except for language and subtitle options; the HK is listed as being in a ratio of 1.78:1, although it does have the trailer for the film. A Region B UK release is not due until 23 July 2012. Support the local distributor. .

Summary

     Shanghai is an interesting, well made, period mystery thriller that boasts a fabulous look, a great cast and heaps of noir style. It takes itself a bit too seriously, and could use a dose of the wit that takes a film to a higher level, but is it entertaining, occasionally moving, and deserves an audience.

     The Blu-ray video and audio are excellent. There are no extras save trailers for other films.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, June 15, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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