Jarhead appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I thought the transfer replicated the source well.
Sharpness worked fine. A few shots seemed slightly soft, but not to a problematic degree, and the majority of the film appeared accurate and well-defined. I saw no shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws also caused no concerns.
Jarhead went with an intensely desaturated palette. A blown-out, high-contrast khaki look dominated the flick. This was especially true in the desert, but even the basic training sequences lacked much color. That was fine for the movie’s visual design, so I found the hues to seem appropriate.
Blacks were dense and deep, and shadows fared well. Low-light shots delivered appropriate delineation and clarity. All in all, this became a satisfying presentation.
I also felt pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Jarhead. A solid soundfield, it just barely lacked the ambition to reach “A”-level.
Not surprisingly, the mix came to life best during the battle sequences. Though our protagonists never became involved in the fight, it swarmed around them at times and created a lively, vivid setting. Bullets, explosions and vehicles zipped around us and made sure that we felt like we were part of the action.
Even during more passive sequences, the film offered a good soundscape. Music showed nice stereo presence, while environmental elements popped up in logical, natural locations. Although the mix only soared on occasion, it still formed a solid sense of atmosphere.
From start to finish, the flick boasted excellent audio quality. Speech was crisp and concise, with good intelligibility and no edginess. Music sounded bright and dynamic, and effects were very strong. They demonstrated fine clarity and accuracy, and the mix also featured positive bass response. This was a consistently fine track.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD release? Audio showed greater dynamic range and impact, while the picture seemed tighter and more film-like. This became a nice step up in quality.
In terms of extras, we get two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Sam Mendes as he offers a running, screen-specific chat. He discusses story issues and the adaptation of the original book, improvisation, rehearsal and performances, locations, the movie’s visual style and color choices, political aspects of the tale, and general production notes.
Across the board, Mendes offers a strong look at his film. He delves into the “whys” and “hows” of matters well and provides a nice sense of introspection. This ends up as a useful and enjoyable piece.
The second commentary presents screenwriter William Broyles, Jr. and author Anthony Swofford. Both sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. They discuss adaptation issues, the facts behind the story, their experiences in the military, and reflections on the situation in Iraq circa 2005. (Broyles fought in Vietnam, and his son served in Iraq.)
At its best, this commentary provides a lot of good insight into the truth of military service and how it affects its participants. At times, the track drags, especially during the movie’s first half.
Swofford seems slow to get involved with matters, so the piece doesn’t go much of anywhere until he begins to open up and engage with Broyles. I wish the commentary more consistently got into the real experiences behind the film, but it still offers a good take on the requisite issues.
Note that the Blu-ray drops a lot of extras from the DVD. That release came in both one-disc and two-disc flavors, and only the commentaries repeat from those. I don’t know why the Blu-ray loses all those bonus materials, but their absence disappoints.
Unlike most war movies, Jarhead features combatants who never fire any shots. The flick concentrates on their psychological issues and how they deal with their inactivity, and it does so in an involving and well-realized manner. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and audio along with two informative commentaries. The loss of so many supplements from the DVD release becomes a letdown, but the Blu-ray delivers the superior presentation of the film itself.
To rate this film visit the DVD review of JARHEAD