Shadow Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

To finally achieve victory over a rival kingdom, a brilliant general devises an intricate plan involving his wife, a look-alike and two kings. From Master Filmmaker Zhang Yimou comes Shadow. Check out Ralph Potts’ Ultra HD Blu-ray review.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

88

Details:

Studio and Year: Well Go USA – 2018
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 116 minutes
Genre: Action/Drama

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): Mandarin Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Chinese
Starring: Deng Chao, Su Li, Zheng Kai, Wang Qianyuan, Wang Jingchun
Directed by: Zhang Yimou
Music by: Lao Zai
Written by: Li Wei, Zhang Yimou
Region Code: A

Release Date: August 13, 2019

“Not All Shadows Require Light”

Synopsis:

“With Shadow, director Zhang Yimou once gain pushes the boundaries of wuxia action to create a film like no other.” – Well Go USA

My Take:

In a kingdom ruled by a young and unpredictable king, the military commander has a secret weapon: a “shadow”, a look-alike who can fool both his enemies and the King himself. Now he must use this weapon in an intricate plan that will lead his people to victory in a war that the King does not want.

Shadow comes from filmmaker Zhang Yimou who brought genre fans such films as “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers”. I am not a diehard fan when it comes to movies of this ilk but, I can enjoy a wonderfully crafted action/drama as much as the next guy, so, I was all in for this one. Shadow is a period film that takes place in China and spun via a narrative that more or less follows three distinct subplots, designed to culminate by film’s end.

The first 45 minutes is a sleep-inducing affair that sets up the characters and basis for each of the subplots. There is an overabundance of dialog that required strict attention to the Mandarin soundtrack’s English subtitles. I must admit that my attention span was difficult to maintain, requiring me to pause and return to the film on several occasions. This made connection to the characters and the essence of the story difficult early on.

The film’s last hour proved more rewarding and engaging. With such a painstaking setup, once things kick off all of the pieces quickly fall into place as the encounter that has been alluded to provides eye opening moments, followed by a second hand to hand skirmish and a several revelations regarding key players, particularly within the King’s court. There’s a wonderfully portrayed bit of romance that compliments the film’s intrigue. As one might expect there is betrayal and a moment of reckoning that is ever so sweet.

The film’s final moment literally drops you in a “make up your own mind” about what it means scenario that I didn’t much care for but, somehow given all that happened it seemed apropos. Shadow is a beautifully shot film from end to end which aids in crafting its story. For me, its longwinded exchanges during the first act were tough to digest. Luckily, things get moving and provide a host of moments that underscore the film’s context in a meaningful and visceral fashion. I suspect that this film will polarize genre fans but, those with the patience to work through its laborious first act will find reward in what follows.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The film contains violence, mild sensuality and graphic images.

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.**

UHD Presentation: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

Dolby Atmos Rating: 80
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Level of immersion: 
  • Soundstage integration: 
  • Audio object placement: 
  • Effectiveness of Atmos platform: 
  • Entertainment factor: 

Shadow comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Well Go USA featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

For its presentation in Ultra HD, Shadow was rendered from a 5K source and finished on a 4K DI. The film was shot with a specific visual aesthetic in mind and that comes through in both its 1080p and Ultra HD presentations.

Looking at films from a “colorless” perspective is something that can take a little getting used. It isn’t an issue for me which allowed me to appreciate how wonderful this presentation is. Resolution is exquisite as images onscreen appear lucid and sharp with crisp definition that occasionally takes a near infinite perspective. Close ups reveal lots of fine detail in the faces, hair and period clothing worn by the cast members. Finer detail, that might otherwise be missed such as the etched/worn surfaces on stone walls, wooden pillars, village streets or the emblems on metallic weaponry are clearly discernible.

This is the case with interior shots as well which adds a wonderful sense of dimension to the image, making it appear more lifelike. Blacks and contrast have excellent dynamic range which plays very well against the film’s gradational shades of gray. Shadow detail is excellent. Whites exhibit multistage delineation so that the blend of mixed content onscreen has appreciable depth of field. Even in black and white I could detect the differing tonal qualities among the fair skinned members of the cast.

The color range in the film is extremely limited but, the rendering of crimson looked a tad punchier here than on the Blu-ray. I didn’t find that HDR played a significant role in this presentation. The video’s dynamic range was consistent throughout, with no especially noteworthy use of bright highlights. I didn’t see this as a shortcoming as it coincided with the film’s visual design.

This is Well Go USA’s first foray into Ultra HD Blu-ray. I must say that they picked a beautifully crafted film that most definitely translated well.

Dolby Atmos/TrueHD7.1:

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the laid-back variety which, given the source material was disappointing. It essentially never engages the height channels even when you’d expect it to, such as film’s large fight sequences in chapter 8. The height channels are primarily used to render supplemental light rain, which frankly isn’t mixed to a level that is makes it defining. The use of limited audio objects placed in the height plane is something that most Atmos listeners tend to be put off by.

Don’t get me wrong I too look for the utilization of the overhead channels and get a charge out of hearing sounds raining down from above. However, I also appreciate a well-crafted sound mix that draws me into the onscreen elements, regardless of where the sounds are emanating from. This Atmos mix does a great job of achieving that as audio objects at ear level are spot on. Had I not had the ability to switch off the speakers at ear level and listen only to the four height speakers, I would have sworn that much of what I was hearing was emanating from both listening planes. When the action ramps up the soundstage is appreciably broad as effects swirl, shift and whiz through the listening area.

The side surrounds are mixed at a lower level which I found negatively impacted some of the ambient sounds used to render scope/size. I also felt that the front three channels were sometimes given too much prioritization, especially when it came to rendering the film’s scenes that involved the use of the stringed instruments. Detail rendering was excellent, with crisp ultra-clear highs that delivered even the subtlest of minutia. Dialog intelligibility was never a problem even during action heavy moments.

Bass response was on point with ample and occasionally room shaking extension that supported the film’s recorded elements. In general, I found this soundtrack to be excellent in most respects but, feel that it would have benefitted from taking full advantage of what Dolby Atmos has to offer.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail: 
  • Color Reproduction: 
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression: 

Audio: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

Shadow comes to Blu-ray Disc from Well Go USA featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

This is an excellent high definition video presentation that offers transparent imagery. The color palette is deliberately held to primary use of black, grays, whites, and crimson. Close ups reveal high level detail that allows the pores, stubble, peach fuzzy hair and subtle variations in the complexions of the cast to be perceivable. The texture on the surfaces of objects is just as defining which gives them visibly apparent structure and tangible quality. Black levels and contrast are stable and visible detail within dark backgrounds and shadows is strong. The video has a pristine quality that appears devoid of video related anomalies and distracting artifacts

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: Shadow Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Shadow Blu-ray
  • Making of Featurette
  • Trailers

Final Thoughts:

Shadow comes from filmmaker Zhang Yimou who brought genre fans such films as “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers”. It is a beautifully crafted period piece with a multifaceted story that plays a bit overlong early on but, pays dividends as it progresses. It comes to Blu-ray from Well Go USA in this Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack that features superb overall video quality mated with engaging lossless sound that includes Dolby Atmos. This release represents Well Go USA’s first foray into Ultra HD Blu-ray and in general, they did an excellent job. Shadow comes recommended for genre fans that appreciate films of its ilk. For those that are set up for Ultra HD the gorgeous viewing experience is a bonus.

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems