Shadow (Ying) (Blu-ray) (2018)

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Released 25-Sep-2019

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2018
Running Time 115:43
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Zhang Yimou
Studio
Distributor
Icon Entertainment Starring Deng Chao
Sun Li
Zheng Kai
Guan Xiaotong
Hu Jun
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Loudboy


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Mandarin DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

In the warring Three Kingdom Period of Chinese history the kingdom of Pei has been defeated and lost control of Jing City where Peis Commander Yu (Deng Chao) was badly wounded in single combat against the rival Commander Yang (Hu Jun). The young and unstable King of Pei (Zheng Kai) has made peace, even going so far as to offer his younger sister (Guan Xiaotong) as concubine to Yangs son. This does not sit well with the court of Pei, nor with Commander Yu who, it seems, has made a miraculous recovery from his wounds and who, against the wishes of the King, has challenged Yang to a duel in seven days, in effect a declaration of war.

However, the Commander at court is not really Yu, but a shadow, a look-a-like named Jing (also Deng Chao), who with the contrivance of Yu and Yus wife Madam (Sun Li) has taken Yus place at court while Yu, badly injured and sick, is hidden in a dark cave where he trains Jing on how to defeat Yang and plots how to retake Jing City. It seems that Yu also has another agenda but is the King aware of the deception? When Jing City is attacked and the Shadow faces off against Yang, this is only the first step in a series of betrayals and surprises that will test each participants resolve and rock the court of Pei.

Shadow (original title Ying) is co-written and directed by the great Zhang Yimou. Since his earliest films, such as Red Sorghum (1988) and Raise the Red Lantern (1991), through intense action films like Hero (2002), House of Flying Daggers (2004) and Curse of the Golden Flower (2006), and even in missteps such as The Great Wall (2016), Zhang has always made full use of vibrant colours to help tell his story. Thus, it is an insight into Zhangs themes that Shadow has been made with a black, white and charcoal scheme that resembles Chinese water and ink wash paintings; only flesh tones, blood in fights, a brown bamboo raft and an occasional touch of green leaves break the monochrome; the rest of the palate is unremitting shades of grey, the exteriors always in heavy rain, Yus cave dark and gloomy, the Pei court in shadows. Unlike the unrelenting CGI of The Great Wall, the action in Shadow is mostly staged for real using wire work plus the obligatory slow motion with individual drops of rain or water flying up from the surface. The exception to the limited CGI is the attack on Jing City using modified umbrellas, which only goes to show how fake CGI tends to look.

Seldom has the look of a film so reflected its themes and concerns. In Shadow there are well-staged action sequences but this is a story about things in the shadow, betrayal, machinations, loss, love, subterfuge and identity, and Zhang is well served by the excellent performances of Deng Chao, Sun Li and Zheng Kai. Also worthy of note is the music of Loudboy which uses a zither, a guqin (a Chinese type of zither) and xiao (Chinese flute) to deliver a wonderfully haunting, moving, minimalist score that fully supports the visuals. Shadow is based on well-known Chinese legends, so Chinese audiences would have no problem in identifying who is who and what is happening. It is a bit more difficult for western audiences, but if you just go with the performances, the visuals and the music, it will all come together.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Shadow is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

This is an amazingly detailed monochrome film. Blacks are totally solid, shadow detail exquisite showing every stone in the cave, all the pebbles in the yin/yang floor, detail on the flags in the court, every glint on armour, individual raindrops or water thrown up by feet. When colours occur, such as the blood, it highlights, dramatically, aspects of the story although it is an interesting choice to make flesh tones natural throughout. Backgrounds, such as the temple in the rain, are less clear. Marks and artefacts were absent.

The yellow English subtitles cannot be removed.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

Audio is Mandarin DTS-HD MA 5.1.

Dialogue is clear. This is a film with frequent silences, or with limited effects while the beautiful and haunting score using zither, guqin and xiao by Loudboy fully supports, and enhances, the visuals. Elsewhere, in scenes outdoors there is the constant sound of rain and thunder and in the action the impact of blows and arrows and the loud clang of metal weapons resonate. The subwoofer provided support where needed but did not call attention to itself.

There are no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Nothing. We get a silent menu with Play Film / Chapters options.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

Our release of Shadow starts with the Well Go USA logo, but that is where the comparison ends! The Region A US Blu-ray has Dolby Atmos audio (defaulting to TrueHD 7.1), seven brief EPK type featurettes, two film trailers, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 dub and English and Chinese subtitles. No contest is it.

Summary

Shadow is a complex, mesmerising film of haunting beauty about subterfuge, identity and betrayal on a number of levels. With its stunning visuals, a haunting score and strong performances Shadow is a return to form by the great Zhang Yimou and one of the best action films of the year.

The video is outstanding, the audio very good. Pity about the missing extras and audio choices.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, September 14, 2020
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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