Eastern Promises (2007)

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Released 20-Mar-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Secrets & Stories (10:33) 16x9 enhanced
Featurette-Marked for Life (6:43) 16x9 enhanced
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 96:19 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By David Cronenberg
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Josef Altin
Mina E. Mina
Aleksandar Mikic
Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse
Lalita Ahmed
Badi Uzzaman
Naomi Watts
Doña Croll
Raza Jaffrey
Sinéad Cusack
Jerzy Skolimowski
Tatiana Maslany
Viggo Mortensen
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Howard Shore


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

David Cronenberg’s previous London based endeavour was Spider (2002), a tale which saw the director explore how a childhood trauma seeps into adult life, creating an internal war between mind and body. Similarly in Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises we experience a hidden world of hardened masculinity through the eyes of a naïve and moralistic young woman who is trying to find the family of an orphaned newborn. The film exists in a specific universe in which characters wear two masks, one for the public persona and another for the private. Yet slowly and surely masks are removed and what is left is a somber image of society.

Cronenberg, now aged in his mid 60s, continues to lift the curtains of different sects and subcultures of society. He never judges his flawed characters; rather he explores different ways of life, ultimately depicting a contemporary sickness, as well as the frailty of humanity, as we are a fallible species.

It is interesting to look at the realistic backdrop of Cronenberg’s latest film in contrast to his previous efforts. Cronenberg’s earlier films have often been associated with the artificial and the grotesque – ultimately images and ideas which ran the risk of distancing audiences emotionally. But questionable social order has always been inherent in the director’s work, in films such as Shivers (1975) and Rabid (1977), through to the much more personal films such as The Fly (1986).

At the centre of each of Cronenberg’s tales is a flawed hero who stands between becoming a monster or a moralist. But often the character’s true self is the monster, and despite their good intentions, their awful destiny's are unavoidable – from the sleazy cable programmer of Videodrome (1983), to the scientist of The Fly, to the perverted twin gynaecologists of Dead Ringers (1988), to the drug taking accidental murderer and writer of Naked Lunch (1991), right through to the henchman, Nikolai Luzhin (Viggo Mortensen) of Eastern Promises.

Nikolai Luzhin (Viggo Mortensen) still remains a mysterious character in the final scenes of Eastern Promises, as he is when he is introduced. And like most Cronenberg protagonists such as Joey Cusack of A History of Violence (2005), Nikolai never forgets his past, his tattooed body is marked with his personal history and his primitive violent instinct is similarly not unlike Cusack’s, and despite both these characters being displaced and taken away from what they know, they continue to assimilate with their present unforgiving environments. But these environments will soon implode, collapsing around the protagonist - forcing them to realise their destinies.

In particular Nikolai’s relationship with the troubled son of Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), Kirill (Vincent Cassel) forces Nikolai to choose his destiny. Kirill is the mirror image of Nikolai, as both characters try to make sense of their present identities. The interest of two identities, in one entity, with one soul, has become a running theme in the Cronenberg universe, most explicitly explored in Dead Ringers. But both Nikolai and Kirill, who share the dynamic of the Mantle twins of Dead Ringers, have their bodies marked with the past and subsequently their future, and these permanent marks and memories do not allow them to escape their debauched environment. Instead, the only moral way to escape the Cronenberg universe is to face one's demons.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Eastern Promises is presented in 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced widescreen.

Black levels are excellent, as is shadow detail as the transfer has been encoded over a dual-layer DVD at the average high bit-rate of 8.95 Mb/s.

The natural and warm colour palette is also well rendered, from the accurate skin tones, to the bright red furnishings of the restaurant, to the scenes set in the darkness of night.

Overall this is a quality PAL transfer which preserves the theatrical exhibition of the film as the darkened rain drenched London streets, as well as the mid afternoon grey skies are perfectly displayed.

There are two subtitle options available, firstly an optional English subtitle stream. The English subtitles of this stream are an accurate representation of the on-screen dialogue and action of the feature film.

Secondly and most importantly, the English subtitles for the Russian, Turkish and Ukrainian dialogue of the film appear as a player generated subtitle stream. Both these subtitle streams appears as a white Arial font and remain clearly visible through the feature film. This subtitle stream should play automatically when the feature film is selected.

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

Audio

Although the back cover of the DVD states there are two English soundtracks available, only a 5.1 Dolby Digital Soundtrack appears on the disc.

As mentioned Eastern Promises is composed of English, Russian, Turkish and Ukrainian dialogue. The dialogue is clearly audible, mostly located at the front of the soundstage.

Despite being a dialogue heavy film, this is often an encompassing soundtrack, largely thanks to the versatile Howard Shore. Shore’s sombre score incorporates traditional Russian folk instruments such as balalaikas, and cimbaloms which are mainly found in Hungary and Romania, into the orchestra. Also traditional songs feature, such as Slavery and Suffering performed by the The Red Army Choir.

The film also features a number of tense action scenes – in particular the now infamous Turkish Baths scene – which proves to be a raw and encompassing experience with excellent channel separation.

All round an expertly produced soundtrack for the masterful thriller.

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

Extras

Main Menu Audio

An anti-piracy warning focusing on the Australian film industry (Wolf Creek) precedes the Main Menu. The Main Menu is identical to the R1 (US) release. It is composed of a still image of the three main characters with scene selection options, subtitle options and access to bonus features and it is accompanied with a fragment Shore's score.

As Eastern Promises was released on Universal DVD and HD DVD (combo) in the USA on Boxing Day 2007, a mere three months after the film’s theatrical release in the USA, extras are unfortunately limited. The reason for Eastern Promises’ early US DVD release date was possibly due to the studio attempting to re-expose the film to potential Oscar voters. It worked as Viggo Mortensen received a Best Actor nomination for his performance, although unfortunately Cronenberg missed out on a nomination. However due to the rushed DVD release, no audio commentary was recorded, which is a great shame as Cronenberg’s DVD commentaries have always proved to be insightful in the past.

Secrets & Stories (10:33) 16x9 enhanced.

David Cronenberg explains his interest in the script, as do the cast and crew. The richly layered film is briefly explored as the London setting, the Russian mafia, as well human trafficking in the UK are discussed through short interviews with Cronenberg, Naomi Watts, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Sinéad Cusack and Steve Knight.

Marked for Life (6:43) 16x9 enhanced.

This featurette focuses on the significance of tattoos in the film. Each tattoo is explained as is the process of applying the various tattoos to the cast. Interviews featuring both David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen are featured.

R4 vs R1

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

The Universal Region 1 (US) NTSC DVD release is almost identical to our release except it includes:

The Universal (US) HD DVD (Combo) release included the same extra feature content as our release except it includes:

Pathé released Eastern Promises in the UK on PAL DVD and Blu-ray. The R2 (UK) DVD release looks identical to our release in terms of technical specifications and extra feature content.

Summary

Eastern Promises is an unrelenting thriller and a spiritual companion to A History of Violence.

This is a superb piece of film making from David Cronenberg.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Vanessa Appassamy (Biography)
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOPPO DV-980H, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE 700. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DSP-A595a - 5.1 DTS
Speakers(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12

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