Sleuth appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film came with a competent transfer but not one that excelled.
A few minor issues with sharpness transpired. A smattering of shots came across as a little soft and tentative, though those were in the minority. Though the movie’s design didn’t allow it to seem tremendously crisp, it displayed perfectly adequate delineation most of the time. I noticed no jagged edges, but I saw some light shimmering and a few minor edge haloes. Source flaws remained absent, as the flick came free from defects.
Sleuth came with a very subdued palette. Icy blues dominated, and a few other earthy tones made up the majority of the other colors, though some brighter lighting appeared during some shots. The hues were fine within the design constraints of the film, though I felt some of the brighter tones – like some purple lighting – could be a bit heavy. Blacks were reasonably dense and dark, while shadows demonstrated reasonable delineation. Nothing here seemed problematic, but I didn’t feel that the image deserved a grade above “B-“.
I gave similar consideration to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Sleuth. Given the movie’s limited cast and restricted setting, I didn’t expect fireworks from the soundfield. Indeed, the film provided mild atmosphere at best. Music formed the majority of the material from places other than the front center, though some ambient information popped up on the sides and in the rears. These instances were minor at best, so don’t anticipate much action on display here.
Audio quality was quite good, at least. Music showed nice range and vivacity, as the score was lively and full. Effects were also accurate and clear. They didn’t often show much ambition, of course, but they were good representations of the material and showed good life. Speech sounded concise and natural, with no edginess or other issues. The audio of Sleuth got a “B-“ due to its limited soundfield, but the sound was perfectly acceptable for this story.
When we head to the extras, the prime attraction comes from two separate audio commentaries. The first includes director Kenneth Branagh and actor Michael Caine. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They go over sets and production design, cinematography, comparisons with the original flick, script and story, performances and rehearsal, music, and a few other production topics.
While not a great conversation, the commentary proves reasonably enjoyable. The track sags at times and suffers from a bit too much happy talk. However, we get some nice insights into the film, and I especially like Caine’s notes about the original movie. This is a moderately above average piece.
For the second commentary, we get actor Jude Law all on his own. He offers another running, screen-specific discussion. Law chats about his approach to the character, working with the others, performance notes and various production issues.
Inevitably, Law repeats some material from the first commentary. He also falls silent a little more than I’d like, though not to a significant degree. Nonetheless, Law manages to hold his own during his chat. He gives us some interesting facts about his work, especially when he gets into his mid-film transformation; I like his remarks about makeup, costumes and other gimmicks. Law proves engaging and likable in this generally useful commentary.
Two featurettes follow. A Game of Cat and Mouse: Behind the Scenes of Sleuth lasts 15 minutes and provides movie clips, shots from the set and interviews. We hear from Branagh, Law, Caine, and screenwriter Harold Pinter. “Game” examines the remake’s path to the screen, the adaptation of the source material and what led the principals to the project, characters and performances, Branagh’s directorial style, production design and cinematography, and some closing thoughts.
After two commentaries, we’ve already learned a lot about Sleuth, and some of that information repeats here. Nonetheless, we get a few new notes, and the footage from the set helps. I especially like the rehearsal images and some other glimpses behind the scenes. This is a moderately fluffy but generally interesting show.
Next comes the two-minute and 34-second Inspector Black: Make-Up Secrets Revealed. It includes remarks from makeup artist Eileen Kastner-Delago. She tells us about all the components used to create the Black character. Despite its brevity, it provides a decent overview of the techniques. It helps that Kastner-Delago is super-gorgeous – she can talk about whatever she wants and I’ll listen!
The DVD opens with a few ads. We get promos for Steep, Youth Without Youth and Blu-Ray. These also appear in the Previews area along with clips for Persepolis, The Jane Austen Book Club, Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains, Saawariya, Across the Universe, We Own the Night, My Kid Could Paint That, When Did You Last See Your Father?, Revolver and Slipstream. No trailer for Sleuth shows up here.
On its own, I think the 2007 Sleuth has its moments, but it can’t quite emerge from the shadow of the original film. That one proves much more entertaining and makes it tough for the remake to stand for itself. The DVD provides fairly average picture and audio along with a few reasonably interesting extras. This is an acceptable release for a moderately enjoyable movie.