The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Sony Pictures - 2006
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Feature running time: 184
Genre: Western Drama/Miniseries
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: MPEG-4 (AVC)
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Audio Format(s): English/French Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Portuguese/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: French, Arabic, Dutch, English, English SDH, Bahasa, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish
Starring: Robert Duvall, Thomas Haden Church, Greta Scacchi, Chris Mulkey, Rusty Schwimmer, Gwendoline Yeo, Scott Cooper, James Russo
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: Alan Geoffrion
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 10, 2008
"Don’t mistake compassion for weakness"
Top-rated miniseries! Academy Award(r) winner Robert Duvall (1983 Best Actor in a Leading Role, Tender Mercies) and Academy Award(r) nominee Thomas Hayden Church (2004 Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Sideways) star in this moving Western drama. Set in 1897, Print Ritter (Duvall) and his estranged nephew Tom Harte (Hayden Church) become the reluctant guardians of five abused and abandoned Chinese girls. Ritter and Harte's attempts to care for the girls are complicated by their responsibility to deliver a herd of horses while avoiding a group of bitter rivals, intent on kidnapping the girls for their own purposes. Classic Western action takes center stage in this dramatic miniseries!
I missed this miniseries when it aired originally on American Movie Classics (AMC). I remember hearing good things about it during the Emmy Awards the year it was nominated (16 nomination!). Being a fan of both Duvall and Haden Church I anticipated a positive reaction to this and after watching it my expectations were met and exceeded. I love westerns and this one tells a powerful story. What starts out as a relatively simple horse drive is complicated when Print and Tom encounter a man hired by whorehouse madam, Big Rump Kate, to transport five Chinese women she bought. They are enroute to a lawless mining town, where they will face a life of prostitution and servitude. Print and Tom end up rescuing the women with intentions of bringing them to the next town and finding someone to properly turn them over to. Things turn out differently as they encounter the Kate who wants them turned over to her. That would not do and they take the women along with two others from the town who have run afoul of Big Rump Kate and continue their perilous trek across the frontier. They are dogged (tracked) by a vicious gang of outlaws hire by Kate which leads to a vicious showdown.
Obviously there is more to the story and these are wonderfully complicated characters. Duvall and Haden Church are at their absolute best and deliver superb performances. This was definitely a group effort as every actor involved had a hand in the bringing believability and strength to the characters portrayed here. The film was divided up into two 1.5 hour segments on this single Blu-ray. I enjoyed every minute of it.
This disc is unrated. I would say that a PG-13 rating would be appropriate. There is some language, violence, and sexual references. This would not be recommended for young viewers.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Broken Trail comes to Blu-ray from Sony featuring 1080p AVC encoded video with an average bitrate of 22 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio with an average bitrate of 1.6 mbps.
This film features beautiful cinematography. There are breathtaking vista views of mountainous regions, lush vegetation covered valleys and running creeks and streams. This looked absolutely stunning in high definition. Detail was characterized by intricate and beautiful images that had three dimensionality and definitive resolve. This was the case in all but a few instances where definition softened and didn’t retain the feeling of crystal clarity. The color palette was not particularly diverse but it maintained perfect balance with the source material and looked great. The various shades of green, brown, gray, and golden hues present were rendered with aplomb. Primary colors such as the red robes worn by the Chinese women were well saturated and stood out among the others. Shadow detail was as good as I have seen. There are many scenes that are shot at night using either the moon or campfire for lighting. I could easily make out shapes, structure and detail within the foreground and background. Check out Chapter 4 at the 28:54. It is dusk and the sun has set but the clouds are still glowing orange against the blue sky. There are trees that are set against that background with a large creek full of rippling water in the foreground. This low light sequence looks amazing. Flesh tones are naturally rendered with distinctive tonal variance. I didn’t see any signs of video noise or compression related artifacts.
Here is another solid Dolby TrueHD audio presentation from Sony on Blu-ray. Dialogue was crystal clear with superb tonal intonation and texture. Detail and clarity were first rate as well which brought forth subtle nuance contained within the mix. The crackling of embers in a fire, the clicking of a tumbler in a revolver as it turns, or the cracking of peanut shells are just a few examples that come to mind. Needless to say that the more dynamic elements contained with in the mix such as thundering horse hoofs, rifle/gun blasts, and the kicking in of doors benefited from this as well. This soundtrack relied more on the front three channels but did use the surrounds to good effect for background ambience with occasional discrete detail. The score was fairly simple and mostly stuck to guitar and piano. It sounded nicely detailed with good separation across the front sound stage. I thought this track sounded great.
The only bonus supplement offered was a 23 minute Making Of documentary. It was quite good and featured interviews with the Director and cast as well as some background on the production.
- Broken Trail: The making of a legendary western
Broken Trail is a compelling film about compassion, honesty, trust and courage. During a time when those values were perhaps not always the norm there came a few men who abided by them. This presentation from Sony on Blu-ray Disc is a good one and easily worthy of a place in your collection. Recommended.
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Sony VPL-VW50 SXRD 1080p High Definition Front Projector
Carada Precision Brilliant White 96" Screen
Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Panasonic DMP-BD30 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Marantz DV7001 Universal Disc Player
Denon AVR 5308CI THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor
Outlaw Audio Model 7700 seven channel amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 seven Channel amplifier
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package