|Year Of Production||2006|
|Running Time||119:09 (Case: 147)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (82:49)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Agustín Díaz Yanes|
Enrico Lo Verso
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Spain is one of a handful of countries with a reasonably active film industry whose films are rarely seen outside of that country. Even most arthouse film buffs will probably struggle to name a Spanish film not made by the legendary Pedro Almodóvar. Alatriste was to be the film that changed all this. Featuring the largest budget of any Spanish film before it (24 Million Euro), a big international star (Viggo Mortensen) and based on an internationally successful series of swashbuckling novels, it certainly had enough raw ingredients to foster some international appeal. Despite reports during production that Twentieth Century Fox had optioned the international distribution rights to the film, the film has barely been seen outside of Spanish-speaking countries in the two years since its Spanish release. The anticipated success has failed to emerge and the film is being released straight to DVD in Australia, and is still unreleased in the US (which is probably most notable given the significant Spanish-speaking population of the USA). The reason is obvious after viewing; the film is a disjointed mess, albeit a pretty mess.
The film follows the adventures of "Captain" Diego Alatriste (Viggo Mortensen), a poor grunt soldier who earns a living as a sword for hire between military campaigns in the early half of the 17th century (the beginning of the downfall of the mighty Spanish empire). Alatriste is not actually a Captain in any military sense, but has earnt this nickname from the respect he has among his peers and his ability to take charge when he is called to. Alatriste raises the son of one of his fallen comrades, Íñigo Balboa (Unax Ugalde), who initially acts as his page and goes on to accompany Alatriste on many of his adventures, in between romancing the lady Angélica de Alquézar (Elena Anaya). Alatriste has an ongoing affair with the famous actress María de Castro (Ariadna Gil) and is chums with the poet Francisco de Quevedo (Juan Echanove) when he happens to be in Spain, though most of his time is spent fighting for Spain in Flanders. Alatriste has a rival, come occasional nemesis or friend, in the mysterious Gualterio Malatesta (Enrico Lo Verso). Alatriste works at various times for several counts, one of whom is played by Eduardo Noriega, and ever under the shadow of the sinister Spanish Inquisition.
Though the previous paragraph may sounds like a rambling overview rather than a concise plot synopsis, it serves to sum up the plot quite well. Actually, that should be "it sums up the lack of plot quite well". The film seems to have grabbed an assortment of events from the five Alatriste books and plonked them together with little to no plot or exposition to tie them together. A sort of "Alatriste's Greatest Hits". Unfortunately the concept doesn't work in film, regardless of whether you've read the liner notes/novels.
Taken in isolation, many of these scenes are great. The military reconstructions are excellent, even if they do look surprisingly cheap in a few places. The performances are universally excellent, particularly Viggo's charismatic Alatriste. There is some great swashbuckling sword fights to be seen. Unfortunately, without any thread of a plot to tie these bits and pieces together the movie is confusing and above all else frustrating viewing. There is nothing worse than repeatedly thinking "I really should be enjoying this" but not caring simply because at no point has the film attempted to given you a reason to care.
The movie is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.
The video generally looks pretty good. The image is a little soft in comparison to most Hollywood blockbusters, though this seems a deliberate decision as it fits with the overall look of the film. Film grain is often noticeable but in a manner that suits the look of the video, in the sense that it adds a distinctive gritty look to the dirty 17th century Spanish streets. Dark colours and shadows contain a good level of detail throughout most of the film, but a number of poorly lit indoor scenes in the latter part of the film suffer from slightly crushed colours in the shadows. There is no sign of low level noise.
The film features a very distinct colour palette that fits the period look of the film well. The emphasis in the palette is on dark reds and rich browns, with natural skin tones.
Pixelation and other video artefacts have been inserted to give a shot on video look to the movie, but there is no sign of unintentional compression artefacts. No film artefacts are visible at any point (unsurprising since it seems unlikely that there was any actual film scanning done in the production of the video).
Bold yellow English subtitles are present for the feature and they are generally well timed, though a few pass by more quickly than can be read. The translation in the subtitles focuses on conveying the meaning of the original Spanish dialogue rather than a literal, word for word, translation.
This is a RSDL disc, with a layer break occurring between scenes at 82:49.
A single English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 Kbps) audio track is present for the film.
The dialogue is clear and presented at a good level in the mix.
The film features an engaging score that comprises elements of classic Spanish guitar with traditional orchestral elements.
There is no noticeable surround usage. A modest degree of low bass is present in the soundtrack that will be picked up by subwoofers.
|Surround Channel Use|
Alatriste has not been released in Region 1 or other English speaking territories. Beware if buying internationally as two versions appear to be in circulation, one based on the original 147 minute Spanish theatrical cut and the other on the shortened 135 minute international festival cut. The Region 4 edition is based on the 147 minute cut.
A genuine disappointment. Alatriste features some beautiful scenes, but its plot is lacking, literally, to the extent viewers will frequently be left wondering what is going on, let alone why it is going on.
Visually, this disc delivers the goods. The 2.0 audio and lack of extras is disappointing, however.
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3, using HDMI output|
|Display||Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).|
|Audio Decoder||Pioneer VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||150W DTX front speakers, 100W centre and 4 surround/rear speakers, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub|