The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: LionsGate - 1999
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 133 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, English
Starring: Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Leno Olin, James Russo, Emmanuelle Seigner
Directed by: Roman Polanski
Music by: Wojciech Kilar
Written by: Enrique Urbizu, Roman Polanski, and John Brownjohn
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: August 11, 2009
"Every book has a life of its own"
Johnny Depp unlocks the gates to hell in Roman Polanski's newest thriller. Depp stars as Dean Corso, an unscrupulous rare-book dealer who is hired to locate the last remaining copies of "The Nine Gate of the Shadow Kingdom," a demonic manuscript that can summon the Devil. Corso becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involving murder, theft and satanic ritual, and ultimately finds himself confronting the devil incarnate.
The Ninth Gate is based on the novel The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. The story combines genre elements of mystery, horror and thriller, with each receiving a fairly equal share. Dean Corso (Depp), a rare-book dealer is hired by rare book collector, Boris Balkan (Frank Langella), to validate a copy of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, a book by 17th century author Aristide Torchia. Balkan's copy of The Nine Gates had previously belonged to Andrew Telfer, a wealthy aristocrat type, who committed suicide shortly after selling the book to Balkan. According to Balkan there are two other copies of the book in existence, both owners are located in Europe. Balkan agrees to pay Corso handsomely for seeking them out and verifying their authenticity. It is obvious to Corso that Balkan’s desire has ritualistic origins related to the book’s subject matter but in his world money talks. Corso begins his quest with a visit to Telfer’s widow, Liana (Olin), who recalls that her husband purchased the book for himself but after doing so became reclusive. She seemed surprised that he sold the book to Balkan because in her opinion it meant a lot to him. She seems indifferent and doesn’t offer Corso anything further so he departs. While preparing to leave for Europe Corso is visited at his apartment by Liana who offers him a bribe for Balkan’s copy of the book. He declines at which time she comes on to him sexually. He acquiesces and afterward finds himself the victim of assault by her when he again refuses to give her the book.
Afterward he becomes paranoid/suspicious and decides to leave the book with his partner/bookstore owner Bernie for safekeeping. When he returns later to collect it he finds the store ransacked and Bernie murdered by a method which is illustrated in the book. He recovers it from Bernie’s well disguised hiding place and leaves for Europe. Once he arrives there Corso begins to encounter a series of bizarre events, beginning with the presence of a young woman who appears to be following him. On several occasions he is followed and attacked by a silent, dark skinned man with bleached blond hair. He locates the two remaining books and a comparison to Balkan’s authenticates them. He determines that they are seemingly identical but closer examination reveals that there are minor variations that went unnoticed by their owners as well as Balkan. He continues to unravel the mystery of the three books and finds himself descending farther down the rabbit hole. He finds that there is no one (including Balkan) that he can trust and those closest to the books begin to mysteriously die violent deaths. Corso begins to piece together the puzzle and finds that the secret to the books lies in a series of engravings found within their illustrations. He realizes that solving this will allow access to the Ninth Gate of the Kingdom of Shadows. The young woman aligns herself with Corso and begins to assist him. She never indicates why she is helping him but Corso believes she is working for Balkan. As he gets closer to the truth he realizes that he has encountered people who are not what they purport to be and that there may be supernatural forces at work that go beyond his beliefs and understanding. Unfortunately Corso finds that he can’t help but see it through even if he must face dark forces to do so…
I must admit that this film had me intrigued but its ending proved pretty unsatisfying. The breadcrumb trail style storytelling was quite effective at first but as the film progressed things slowed down which frustrated me a bit. The payoff which was the revealing of the truth behind the engravings, the identity of the young woman and why she was involved wasn’t as explicit as I’d hoped and the abrupt and open ended finish didn’t help. I thought that Johnny Depp did a great job as the strange and eccentric Corso. His wispy goatee, never ending supply of Lucky Strikes, and glib demeanor made Corso a believable character. In support Lena Olin gave a terrific performance, with honorable mention going to Frank Langella. I can’t say that I am a big fan of Roman Polanski’s films but I will probably give this another spin when time permits. I liked it enough to want to see what a second viewing yields now that I know what to expect from the ending.
The rating is for some sexuality, brief nudity and violence.
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:
The Ninth Gate comes to Blu-ray Disc from LionsGate featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 35 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.6 mbps.
This film’s source elements don’t lend themselves to overly vibrant, high gloss video but I was pleased with the results. Images tend to lean toward darker color schemes, and grittier textures that provided the look that the filmmakers were striving for. This was done to good effect in my opinion. Shadow delineation is quite good and revealing of subtle details within dark backgrounds and low lighting sequences which gave those scenes better visual depth. Good contrast and black levels allowed scenes containing mixed content to look dynamic with punchy dark highlights. Detail was rendered quite well with crisp textures and definitive resolution that brought forth subtle nuance within images onscreen. Colors were limited to darker tones with occasional splashes of vivid hues which stood out nicely against the films dark theme. Grain is intact and appears to be faithfully preserved.
I wouldn’t classify it as an aggressive soundtrack but DTS-HD Master Audio’s higher resolution brought out the best in it. Dialogue was centrally focused and lucid with distinguishable intonation and requisite clarity. Subtle nuance and low level detail under the audio’s surface was audible and supremely articulated. I loved the airy, aurally expressive yet subtle breath of the clarinet, flute and trumpet in Wojciech Kilar’s music score. Surround activity wasn’t abundant however the entire surround platform was utilized to enrich musicality and render effective directional/spatial effects that enhanced dimension and generated a stable sound field. Dynamic range and low frequency effects appropriately augmented the recording’s elements but rarely attained levels that were substantially palpable.
- Audio commentary with Director Roman Polanski
- Featurette – Short production making of piece
- Storyboard selections
- Gallery of Satanic drawings
- Original theatrical trailers
This being my first experience with The Ninth Gate I guess it would be fair to say that I enjoyed it. It is an above average film that doesn’t adhere to one genre but blends several. While I found the ending to be dissatisfying I didn’t feel that it negated the movie’s other attributes which included an intriguing plotline and solid cast performances from star Johnny Depp and supporting actress Lena Olin. Its well balanced audio/video presentation in high definition from LionsGate Blu-ray should please fans and the bonus content is the same as offered on the 2007 DVD release. Even though I have not seen the DVD I suspect that this Blu-ray Disc offers a discernible upgrade in video quality. If it piques your interest it is easily worthy of a rental to explore it further.
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