Merchants of Doubt appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The image reproduced the source well.
Doubt mixed material shot specifically for the film with archival elements. The latter showed the inevitable ups and downs. They could look good but they also could be messy and flawed. Those results seemed inevitable given the nature of the footage.
As for the components created specifically for Doubt, sharpness was mostly solid. Shot on high-def video, only a smattering of soft shots appeared, so the majority of the program seemed accurate and crisp. I saw no shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes failed to appear. Print flaws also didn’t interfere with the image.
Colors tended toward a natural feel and seemed appropriate. While they didn’t leap off the screen, they showed positive reproduction. Blacks were dark and deep, and low-light shots displayed nice clarity. All in all, the image satisfied.
One wouldn’t expect much from the documentary’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, and the mix seemed restrained. Effects were essentially a non-factor, and the back channels offered little material. Much of the film focused on speech, and those lines stayed in the front center. Music offered positive stereo imaging.
Audio quality appeared fine. Again, effects were a minor element; the bits and pieces we heard were accurate but stayed in the background. Music stayed gentle but seemed smooth and distinctive, while speech appeared natural and concise. Though nothing impressive, the mix fit the documentary.
In terms of extras, we get an audio commentary with director Robert Kenner. He provides a running, screen-specific look at sources and editing, participants and interviews, music, and related subjects.
Kenner presents a pretty lackluster commentary, though the chat does improve as it progresses. At the start, Kenner tells us little of interest, but he provides more substantial information as the movie goes. This still ends up as a mostly mediocre discussion, though, without a lot of insights.
We hear from the director via the 17-minute, 44-second An Evening at the Toronto International Film Festival with Robert Kenner. In this piece, Kenner discusses the interviews he conducted and the participants, aspects of the film’s creation, and thoughts about its potential impact. Some of the material repeats from the commentary, but we get a few new thoughts here.
Unlikely Voices fills a total of five minutes, 24 seconds and gives us comments from: Atlanta Tea Party leader Debbie Dooley, former Secretary of State George Schultz, and Swiss Re Americas CEO J. Eric Smith. Dooley talks about efforts to fight power companies, Schultz covers how Republicans used to champion environmentalism, and Smith reviews the impact of climate change on the insurance business. All are interesting, and the Schultz segment should’ve made the final cut.
The disc begins with ads for Red Army, The Salt of the Earth, Aloft, Infinitely Polar Bear, Jimmy’s Hall and Lambert & Stamp. We also get the trailer for Doubt.
A second disc presents a DVD copy of Doubt. It includes the film’s trailer and the previews but lacks other extras.
While Merchants of Doubt examines a potentially fascinating subject, it does so in a less than even-handed manner. This makes it seem intellectually dishonest, as it can be guilty of the sins it sees in others. The Blu-ray offers acceptable picture and audio as well as decent supplements. Doubt has its moments but lacks the depth it needs to succeed.