Action Blu-ray Review

The Art of War: A Review of ‘Shadow’ on 4K Blu-ray

August 30, 2019Ben MK

As a clash between two rival dynasties brews, an injured commander prepares his doppelgänger for a high-stakes confrontation with a fearsome general, while the commander's wife grapples with her feelings for her husband's "shadow."

In director Zhang Yimou's latest, the renowned director returns to the genre for which he's best known, telling the story of the exiled King of Pei (Zheng Kai), who, thanks to the actions of his top commander (Deng Chao), is forced to plan an attack to retake the Walled City of Jin, whose General Yang (Jun Hu) is one of China's most feared and respected warriors. But with virtually every character harboring their own hidden agenda, the outcome is anything but certain.

Mixing character drama with epic martial arts and battle sequences, the result is a tale filled with suspense, intrigue and double crosses. And though some viewers might be put off by the film's relatively slow and somewhat muddled first half, Shadow bounces back with a vengeance, thanks to a stirring final act that's as intense and as satisfying as anything Zhang has ever brought to the screen.

With its lavish, period production design and striking, almost black and white color palette, Shadow makes for a memorable theatrical viewing experience. And fortunately, the same sentiment holds true for the experience of watching the film on 4K, thanks to a gorgeous 2160p HDR encoding. Image quality is razor sharp throughout, with nary a fuzzy detail nor muddy color in sight. And it's all made better by a subtle yet strong Dolby Atmos sound mix that renders every syllable of dialogue, every raindrop, and every clash of weapons with faultless precision.

Well Go USA's two-disc 4K release includes a Blu-ray copy of the film. There are no special features on the 4K disc, but the following extras can be found on the Blu-ray disc:

  • Making Of (20:21) - Seven featurettes ("About the Double," "The Director," "The Unknown Side of Zhang Yimou," "Behind the Scenes," "Heroes," "Deng Chao" and "Zheng Kai") that delve into the film's central theme, what director Zhang Yimou brought to the project, and the contributions of the cast and crew.
  • International Trailer (2:05)
  • US Trailer (1:56)

Shadow is available from Well Go USA Entertainment as of August 13th, 2019. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray features Mandarin Dolby Atmos and English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks. The film is presented with English, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese subtitles. The total runtime is 1 hr. 56 min.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my TIFF review of the film, published on September 12th, 2018.

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