DVD Times already features three pieces on Oldboy: Kevin Gilvear's review of the R3 Korean release, Alex Hewison's review of the R0 UK release, and Bex's review of the R3 Hong Kong release. For the record, I find myself agreeing most with Alex's take on it.
Oldboy is presented in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio, with an AVC-encoded 1080p transfer. Given that none of the film's standard definition DVD incarnations have looked particularly astounding, it wasn't too much to ask for its HD debut to be something of a revelation, and, in many regards, this is a decent transfer, offering a substantial improvement in terms of detail while retaining that slightly hazy (quite possibly intentionally so) quality that was also apparent on Tartan's DVD. The colours remains rather desaturated and slightly green-tinged, which as far as I can tell is how the film was intended to look.
However, for all the improvements that this Blu-ray release marks over its DVD counterparts, it still falls somewhat short in comparison to other high definition titles. Detail levels are above average to good, and, despite the 50 GB dual layer disc and advanced AVC codec, with a bit rate that tends to average out in the low 30s, the compression sometimes detracts from the film-like appearance by not allowing the grain to be as fine and natural-looking as possible. Very light mosquito noise around detailed objects, such as the telegraph wires at the start of Chapter 6, is also apparent on occasions, and, given the high average bit rate, I wonder to what extent these flaws were inherent in the master used. In addition, the black levels appear a bit wonky, with murky brown often taking the place of deep black (jump to the start of Chapter 5 for a particularly good example of this). If memory serves me correctly, the DVD was similarly affected. As a final point, while it didn't distract me unduly, there is quite a bit of telecine wobble throughout the film, making the image somewhat less stable than would have been ideal.
In terms of audio, five tracks are provided, although two of them are an absolutely horrendous English dub that should be avoided at all costs. What remains are three Korean tracks - Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 Kbps, Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640 Kbps, and what my Playstation 3 identifies as a DTS track with a bit rate of 768 Kbps. Pre-release press materials indicated that the film would be serviced with a full-on DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, and it is identified as such on the menu, but my understanding is that the legacy DTS mix tagged on to such a track would feature a bit rate of 1.5 Mbps (please correct me if I'm wrong). In any event, all I got was a half bit rate DTS 5.1 track, which is slightly disappointing, given that Black Book, another of Tartan's three initial Blu-ray releases, gave a 1.5 Mbps legacy strain. In any event, there's not a whole lot between the Dolby and DTS 5.1 flavours, except perhaps that the latter seems to be minutely louder. In any event, it's a strong mix, if a little too front-focused, although Yeong-wook Jo's score certainly makes ample use of the surrounds. If and when I am able to ascertain for certain whether this is really a DTS-HD Master Audio track, I will update this review accordingly.
English subtitles are provided for the film and for the three commentary tracks. They are completely legible and are presented within the 2.39:1 frame rather than over the letterboxing at the bottom of the screen, which should please those with projection setups no end.
Tartan's DVD release of Oldboy was a thoroughly impressive affair in terms of bonus content, packing three audio commentaries and a second disc packed full of interviews and deleted scenes. Unfortunately, all that makes it to this Blu-ray release are the commentaries, deleted scenes (with optional commentary) and the theatrical trailer (the latter two presented in standard definition, poorly standards converted from PAL to NTSC and upconverted to 1080p). Taken on its own, it's not too shabby a line-up - the commentaries in particular, while dry, are informative and intelligent - but knowing that Tartan had much more at their disposal makes it hard not to feel slightly cheated. In any event, at least these extras are presented at full size rather than in a small window, as was the case with Black Book.
It's great to see more non-Hollywood content appearing on Blu-ray, particularly a solid film like Oldboy, but it's hard not to feel somewhat shortchanged by Tartan's failure to port over all of the bonus content from their 2-disc DVD set, while the image, despite being a definite step up from every prior release of the film, falls short of the high standard set by their Blu-ray release of Black Book.
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