Eyes Wide Shut appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. For the most part, the movie looked decent, but some concerns emerged.
Virtually all of those affected sharpness. Definition mostly seemed positive, but I noticed more softness than I’d like. Some of this stemmed from photographic styles, but I still thought the flick wasn’t as consistently tight as I’d expect. No issues with jagged edged or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Source flaws also seemed to be absent in this clean presentation.
Shut maintained a pretty subdued palette overall. Warm, earthy tones dominated, while some more lush hues appeared via the frequent Christmas trees and a few of the costumes, some of which displayed rich burgundy tones. The colors seemed good and fit within the dense visual design.
Blacks looked deep and firm, while shadows were clear and appropriately opaque. I found it tough to decide between a “B” and a “B+” but I went with the lower grade just because Shut seemed awfully soft for such a recent film. Nonetheless, the image usually remained satisfying.
As for the film's LPCM 5.1 soundtrack, it wasn’t terribly ambitious. While not terrifically engulfing, the soundfield seemed adequate and it added to the experience. A forward-oriented track, I just heard some gentle sound effects and music from the surrounds. However, the stereo mix for the front speakers was actually quite good, and it spread out the image broadly enough to make the lack of active surrounds more acceptable.
Audio quality seemed strong. Although much of the dialogue appeared to have been dubbed, the lines remained clear, natural and easily intelligible with no signs of edginess.
The music sounded very smooth and natural, and some of the cues provided great depth and vivacity. For example, when Chris Isaak’s “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing” briefly played, the bass response appeared terrific, and the song really took over my room. The film’s atmospheric piano elements also were crisp and appropriately bright.
Effects were realistic and free of distortion. Granted, this wasn't a demanding mix, but it still got the job done with good sound and a reasonably effective audio environment.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2007 Special Edition DVD? Audio was a little warmer, and visuals seemed somewhat tighter and clearer. The Blu-ray improved on the DVD but wasn’t a huge step up, as both showed the same concerns.
The Blu-ray reproduces the DVD’s extras. The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut runs 43 minutes, eight seconds as it mixes film clips, archival elements, and interviews. We hear from director’s wife Christiane Kubrick, daughters Anya Kubrick and Katharina Kubrick-Hobbs, novelists Brian Aldiss, Ian Watson, Sara Maitland and Candia McWilliam, Warner Bros. chairman/co-CEO Terry Semel, executive producer/brother-in-law Jan Harlan, filmmakers Steven Spielberg and John Boorman, and actors Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise, and Sydney Pollack.
We get a little discussion of Kubrick’s lifestyle as well as aspects of his personality. From there we learn about projects that Kubrick pursued before he moved to Shut, what it was like to collaborate with him, other personal insights and aspects of Shut, and his death.
As we most of these Kubrick featurettes, we get a fair amount of the usual “Kubrick rules” comments. However, these don’t bog down the show, and it includes some moderate criticism as well; the various writers with whom he collaborated give a good look at how difficult he could be. The two sides balance well to turn this into a satisfying and insightful program.
One unusual problem with “Last”: it suffers from personal events that took place since the movie’s release. The Kidman and Cruise interviews come from 1999, back when they were still a couple. Since they’re famously not together anymore, it becomes unintentionally amusing to hear them speak like they maintain great love for each other. This doesn’t harm the show, but it creates a minor distraction.
Lost Kubrick: The Unfinished Films of Stanley Kubrick goes for 20 minutes, 19 seconds and features Pollack, Harlan, former Warner Bros. executive John Calley, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography author John Baxter, assistant Anthony Frewin, Stanley Kubrick: The Complete Films author Paul Duncan, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange author Stuart McDougal, 2001 choreographer Daniel Richter, actors Jack Nicholson and Joseph Mazzello, Wartime Lies author Louis Begley, makeup artist Barbara Daly, and production designer Roy Walker.
Narrated by Malcolm McDowell, the program looks at a few projects Kubrick pursued but never brought to fruition. These include flicks about Napoleon and the Holocaust. The program digs into these in surprising detail, and it’s especially cool to hear from Nicholson and Mazzello, the actors who would have appeared in the Napoleon and Holocaust flicks, respectively. This is one of the more fascinating Kubrick featurettes.
A rare public appearance from Kubrick – albeit via video – comes in the 1998 DGA DW Griffith Award Acceptance Speech. After a short intro from actor Jack Nicholson, we hear Kubrick’s remarks in regard to the honor. The clip lasts four minutes, three seconds and is cool to see, even if Kubrick was one of the least interesting speakers alive.
Next we get an interview gallery. These were conducted back in 1999 with actors Tom Cruise (8:43) and Nicole Kidman (18:29) and director Steven Spielberg (8:07). All told, these pieces last for 35 minutes and 19 seconds.
Spielberg's interview is definitely the most interesting of the lot. He discusses the reasons why he finds Kubrick's films to be so important and also talks about their personal relationship; he even reveals that he didn't initially like The Shining and he discusses why he felt that way.
Most ironic, however, is Spielberg's enthusiastic discussion of how masterfully Kubrick framed his films, since so many of them - Shut included - lost that framing in their initial home video incarnations. As Spielberg illustrates, films are framed as they are for a reason; why Kubrick ignored that for the home video audience makes no sense to me.
Anyway, I liked Spielberg's clip quite a lot but I felt less enthusiastic about the programs with the actors. Kidman’s section is decent but not great. She talks a lot about the movie and her own role but spends the least amount of time discussing Kubrick himself, a surprising fact since her interview is so much longer than the others. Maybe it just seemed like she talked less about Kubrick than did the other two since that part of the clip takes up relatively less time. In any case, her comments reveal some fairly interesting information about the film but aren't tremendously fascinating.
I definitely found Cruise's section to be the least useful of the bunch. Kidman comes across as slightly sycophantic in her interview, but Cruise is way over the top in his unrestricted adoration of Kubrick. During his piece, all he does is tell us what a genius the guy was, but he does so without illustrating his reasons for believing this.
In addition, some of the usual standbys appear on Shut. We get the film’s theatrical trailer plus two television ads.
Eyes Wide Shut finished out Kubrick's career on a relatively low note. No, it's not his worst film, but it's much closer to the bottom than it is to the top. The Blu-ray presents decent but unexceptional picture and audio as well as a moderately informative set of supplements. This ends up as an acceptable release for a dull movie.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of EYES WIDE SHUT