Friday, May 26, 2017

4K Blu-ray Review: “3:10 to Yuma”

Film: **** out of 5
Video: **** 1/2
Audio: *****
Extras: ***

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It’s an anniversary year for both James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma as well as the 1957 original. With the remake celebrating its 10th year, it’s fitting for Lionsgate to release it in 4K rather than simply slapping an anniversary title on the cover with no real upgrades. It’s nice to see the film holds up so well after 10 years. It helps with it being a western because the genre never feels like a product of its time. Maybe with Blazing Saddles as the exception. But with Mangold in the hot seat again and Logan heading to home video next week, it’s even less shocking to see the 4K disc hitting shelves. And while the image quality isn’t exactly head and shoulders above the now also 10-year-old Blu-ray, it offers enough of an upgrade for those worried about a double dip.

Based on an Elmore Leonard short story, 3:10 to Yuma tells the sweeping story of Dan Evans (Christian Bale), a father trying to wrestle with his son William (Logan Lerman) on the cusp of manhood. Events are set into motion when the nefarious Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) offers Dan his herd of missing cows in exchange for Dan’s horses after Tucker (Kevin Durand) set Dan’s barns on fire and gives Dan one week to make good on money owed. Turns out, Ben stole some money and killed some folk and the local law has tracked him down to take him to Contention where they’re going to throw him on the titular train ride to his imminent hanging. Suffice to say, Ben isn’t going down without a fight.

Originally mastered at 2K and 10 years ago, it’s no surprise that 3:10 to Yuma isn’t the knockout it should be. Upscaled to 4K, the film certainly has the advantage of being shot on film offering plenty of detail — that is when Phedon Papamichael’s cinematography is in focus. There’s no need to adjust your sharpness settings, the same soft focus permeated the Blu-ray release also. The new transfer excels in blacks and HDR. The blackest blacks make the night sequences feel more realistic while it does take a slight hit on shadow details. As for the HDR, the film feels hotter than ever. If you can’t feel the heat blistering off the cast then you need to do some setting tweaks. On the downside, there is some slight blooming off the cast’s faces. The gorgeous vistas are even more sweeping than ever now, even if the soft focus can cause some of trees and various landscapes to look less than razor sharp.

Back when 3:10 was released on Blu-ray, it came with a rip roaring Uncompressed 7.1 track. While still not having been able to upgrade my sound system to take full advantage of the new DTS:X track, the upgraded 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is still every bit as spectacular as it always has been. 3:10 was a demo disc 10 years ago and it’s still every bit as impressive. Featuring even better ambiance and prioritization, no one will be disappointed if they aren’t able to hear it at its full potential.

In a rare instance, Lionsgate has ported over all of the special features from the Blu-ray aside from the trailer. Considering the inclusion of the Blu-ray, this could have been skipped giving the film even more room to breathe. It is nice to see at least one studio putting forth an effort in the extras department. A few of the better features are Mangold’s “Audio Commentary,” a picture-in-picture feature titled “Inside Yuma,” a collection of “Deleted Scenes,” and I can’t help but love “3:10 to Score” spotlighting Marco Beltrami’s score.

3:10 to Yuma may not be one of the best westerns ever made, but it’s absolutely one of the best modern westerns. Considering how bad even Antoine Fuqua’s Magnificent Seven wound up, it just makes me realize that not many directors truly understand what makes them tick any more. At least we still have the classics — which this now qualifies as — to fall back on. Featuring a worthy 4K upgrade — if even more so on the audio front — Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma manages to stand tall among the more questionable 4K additions. With Logan right around the corner, it’s nice to have one of Mangold’s earlier efforts back in the spotlight to prove that he’s always been known for delivering stellar entertainment. 3:10 is a no brainer and videophiles will be more than  happy to add this one to our ever expanding 4K collections.

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