Upstream Color (2013)

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Released 20-Dec-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 96:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Shane Carruth

Madman Entertainment
Starring Amy Seimetz
Shane Carruth
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Shane Carruth

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     There are no awards given out each year for the most baffling, confusing, categorisation defying DVD release. If there was Upstream Color would be the hands-down favourite. Written, starring, directed and partly filmed by Shane Carruth it is a dizzying film experience that is as stunning and intriguing as it is maddening.

     The bare bones of the plot are fairly simple to describe. Kris (Amy Seimetz) is abducted from a bar and forced to ingest a parasitic worm that allows her to be completely controlled. Over the next few days she is totally under the control of a criminal who forces her to give up her bank account details and leaves her mentally and emotionally destroyed. After awaking from the experience she finds that the life that she knew has been terminated. She is fired from her job for the unexplained absence and her brain doesn't seem to function the way it did. One day on a train she meets Jeff (Carruth) who is equally destroyed and the two form an uncomfortable but deep emotional bond. Slowly they begin to realise and remember their experience.

     That's about as much as can be said about the film. The rest belongs in the realm of dreams, with mind-bending visuals, twinned-soul pigs and more. Jeff and Kris are barely hanging on to our world with their daily states barely rising above the catatonic.

     Upstream Color is a film that will divide audiences. Within the first 10 minutes you will know whether this is the film for you as the pacing rarely changes as the film progresses according to the hypnotic state of its subjects. Suffice to say that those expecting a procedural revenge movie like Malice, where the wronged duo plan a masterful revenge against the criminal empire, will be disappointed. There is a resolution of sorts however it is not quite what is expected.

     Those cinema fans who are jaded by straightforward narratives and conventional movies will find much to like about this movie which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival and could quite rightly be regarded as a classic head scratcher. Days after watching the film I'm still trying to put pieces of the plot together with that uneasy feeling at the back of my mind that maybe the pieces don't actually fit. Still, an absolute blast of refreshment and a film that bears repeated viewing.

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Transfer Quality


     Upstream Color comes to DVD at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio consistent with the original cinematic presentation. It is 16×9 enhanced.

     The film was shot on high-definition digital video. Although it doesn't spring from an unlimited budget it must be said that this is a good looking, at times stunning, presentation.

     The image quality is consistently crisp. The scenes where there is a diffused look are intentionally so.

     The flesh tones are accurate. The colours are bright and vibrant, except where the image is intentionally stripped of colour.

    There are no technical defects with the transfer.

    There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Upstream Color carries an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack running at 448 Kb/s.

     The film features an immersive soundtrack once again the product of Shane Carruth. It is an unsettling score, reminiscent of David Lynch's Eraserhead which relates directly to a key aspect of the film. The soundtrack makes effective use of the surrounds.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand.

    There are no technical defects with the sound transfer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras. Shane Carruth has been consistent in not revealing too much about his film so I doubt a commentary track will ever surface.

R4 vs R1

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


    The film has been released in Region 1 in a Blu-ray and DVD combo pack. Available reviews suggest that there may be a mastering error with the Blu-ray which causes some sound sync issues. They do not plague the DVD.


     Whether you are partial to Upstream Color depends upon whether you are prepared to settle into its hypnotic rhythms and give up any notion of an easily digestible story. I read one description of the film as a combination of Terence Malick and David Lynch. Those seeking an easy point of reference will find that description reliable. There is the slow sense of wonderment of a Malick film and the perversity and sense of evil underpinning some David Lynch films.

    The DVD is of good quality both in sound and vision terms.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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