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Army of Crime (L’armée du crime) [UK Release] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles:  English
  • Region: B
  • Classification: 15
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Optimum Home Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: February 1, 2010
  • List Price: £19.99[amazon-product align=”right” region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B002VD5RXY[/amazon-product]

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]

Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]

Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]

Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

More Screen Captures (18 Total)

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4/5]

Director Robert Guédiguian, known for his left wing political leanings, and latterly associated with the French Communist party, brings his entry of the World War II French Resistance into the cinematic mix with Army of Crime.

A stirring character drama based on the real events surrounding the Affiche Rouge (‘red poster’) group in Nazi occupied France, the film chronicles a diversified group of immigrant communist partisans in Paris, consisting of Jews, Hungarians, Armenians, lead by the Armenian poet Missak Manouchian (Simon Abkarian), who violently fought against the Nazi occupation. As the film opens, we see the resistance fighters being driven to their fate to the sound of a narrator calling out their names saying, “mort pour la France.”

Guédiguian then weaves together the story of their lives, showing us how the members of the Resistance ultimately arrived at their fate. The group of political partisans form a makeshift family united in their belief in communism, their hatred of the Nazis, and their need for belonging. They are all immigrants — multiethnic, caught in a nation that doesn’t’ really want them and a war that will determine their fates.

Army of Crime arrived with very little fanfare in comparison to that other wartime drama from 2009 that shared similar themes, Inglorious Basterds. They are two sides of the same coin, with Guédiguian’s film taking a far more contemplative tack, but no less entertaining.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

Army of Crime appears on this Blu-ray release in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in an AVC/MPEG-4 high definition 1080p/24 encoding. Although it is not a particularly grainy film, its grain structure is very much present, preserved, and the transfer maintains a film-like appearance. The source is clean and the transfer is free from any detrimental artifacts. The color palette is quite drab and dull, but this presentation from Optimum offers up good color reproduction nonetheless, with natural flesh tones. Back levels are deep, yet shadow detail remains strong in the many dark scenes and overall contrast is good while white levels do not clip. Detail is very sharp and three dimensional, extending well into the background. Clothing and skin are all well defined. This is a solid effort from Optimum.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Army of Crime’s dialogue-heavy soundtrack is provided in a French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 encoding that offers a front-heavy mix with clean dialogue and a sufficient amount of low-level atmospheric effects to keep the mix from become too stagnant and dry. When the scenes arise where there are opportunities for some low frequencies to come to the fore, the subwoofer is used judiciously, though it will not rattle the floorboards.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

Viewers outside of Region B areas should be aware that all of the supplements provided on Army of Crime are in a standard definition PAL format and thus require a Blu-ray player or television capable of playing back or converting such a signal.

The supplements provided on this release are:

  • Interview with Robert Guédiguian (1.78:1; SD; PAL) — Filmed at the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse during the Cambridge Film Festival on 17 September 2009.
  • Meeting a Survivor: Henri Karayan (1.78:1; SD; PAL) — A member of the Manouchian group visits the set of Army of Crime.
  • Rendez-vous with Robert Guédiguian and Arian Ascaride (French Communist Party Meeting) (1.78:1; SD; PAL) — A Q & A session with the director and actress at the French Communist Party meeting shortly before the release of Army of Crime.
  • Meeting Virginie Ledoyen & Simon Abkarian (1.78:1; SD; PAL) — An interview with the two actors.
  • Army of Crime at Cannes 2009 (1.78:1; SD, PAL) — A look at the premiere of Army of Crime at the 2009 Cannes.
  • Trailer (HD)

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

Despite its lengthy running time, Guédiguian’s Army of Crime is a compelling entry into the crowded field of French Resistance World War II dramas. If the superb acting, meticulous direction and complex stories don’t make it worth your while, then the strong video transfer and solid DTS-HD Master Audio mix on this Blu-ray release certainly will. Highly recommended.

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