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Company of Heroes (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 17, 2013 by  



“Company of Heroes” is a popcorn action World War II film that may not be as memorable compared to many other World War II films out there, but I did find it entertaining.  Will fans of the video game enjoy this film?  I think that it will be subjective, but I do feel that for its low budget and the fact that the film does star a several well-known talent, the end result was much better than I expected.

Images courtesy of © 2012 Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Company of Heroes

FILM RELEASE: 2013

DURATION: 100 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition,1:78:1, English, French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, Engish SDH, Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin, Traditional), Chinese (Mandarin, Simplified), Dutch, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (For Bloody War and Violence Throughout, Some Language and Brief Nudity)

Release Date: February 26, 2013

Directed by Don Michael Paul

Written by David Reed

Produced by Jeffery Beach, Phillip J. Roth

Executive Producer: Cherise Honey

Music by Frederik Wiedmann

Cinematography by Martin Chichov

Edited by Cameron Hallenbeck

Casting by Gillian Hawser

Costume Design by Anna Gelinova

Starring:

Tom Sizemore

Chad Michael Collins as Nathaniel Burrows

Vinnie Jones as Willoughby

Dimitri Diatchenko as Ivan Puzharski

Neal McDonough as Lieutenant Conti

Jurgen Prochnow

Melia Kreiling as Kestrel

Richard Sammel

Brian Glanney

INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS A company of American soldiers is lost behind enemy lines during the Battle of the Bulge and makes a horrific discovery — a super bomb in development. The soldiers soon learn about a secret allied mission to retrieve a defecting German scientist in charge of a secret weapons program. Faced with impossible odds, the company and an escaping POW go on a daring raid into the heart of Nazi Germany in pursuit of the scientist. Starring Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan), Chad Michael Collins (Sniper: Reloaded), Neal McDonough (Captain America: The First Avenger), Vinnie Jones (The Tomb) and Jurgen Prochnow (Das Boot).

Back in 2006, “Company of Heroes” became the highest rated real-time strategy videogame for the PC.  Developed by Relic Entertainment and published by THQ, news of a film adaptation inspired by the video game and true events from World War II began to materialize.

But due to the unknown climate of the video game industry and THQ filing bankruptcy, not much was known about the status of the live action film.

While Relic Entertainment was sold to Sega in January 2013, thus prolonging the life of the “Company of Heroes” video game series, the film which was originally to be released in theaters is now being released direct-to video on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Directed by actor Don Michael Paul (“The Garden”, “Who’s Your Caddy?”) and written by David Reed (“Supernatural”, “Battlestar Galactica”), the low budget World War II film would star Tom Sizemore (“Saving Private Ryan”, “Black Hawk Down”, “Heat”), Chad Michael Collins (“Lake Placid 2”), Vinnie Jones (“X-Men: The Last Stand”, “Swordfish”, “Snatch”), Dimitri Diatchenko (“Chernobyl Diaries”, “Get Smart”, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”), Neal McDonough (“Captain America: The First Avenger”, “Minority Report”, “Flags of Our Fathers”), Jurgen Prochnow (“Das Boot”, “The Da Vinci Code”, “The English Patient”) and Richard Sammel (“Inglourious Basterds”, “Casino Royale”).

The film takes place during the “Battle of the Bulge”, a time when the Allied Forces felt that the war was now shifting on their side and the Germans would surrender.  But Adolf Hitler was working on a super bomb (atomic bomb) to help turn the tide.

“Company of Heroes” revolves around a company of American soldiers who receive orders from Lt. Conti (portrayed by Neal McDonough) to deliver Christmas hams to an OP.  The Allied Forces, especially American higher-ups felt it would be no problem as Germany was losing the war and didn’t have many soldiers.  But for one company’s leader, he believes the threat is still there as a soldier from his company was killed by a sniper.

As the company travels to delivery their supplies, they are attacked by the Nazi’s, who manage to destroy their vehicle via mortar attack and killing a few soldiers from the company.

As the company walks around trying to find safety, they enter an area in which they find a man of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) barely alive.  He explains to them that it is important that they get a message of encrypted codes to Stuttgart to a person named Kestrel  immediately.  And the dying officer gives them a mission to get to Stuttgart or else what happened to the area will happen to America.

And as the American soldiers try to get to Germany, the majority of the company including their leader are killed by the Nazi’s as they try to flee by train to Germany.  Leaving a young soldier, Nathaniel Burrows (portrayed by Chad Michael Collins) to now be the person in charge of the mission and joining him is one American soldier (portrayed by Tom Sizemore), a Red Army soldier named Ivan (portrayed by Dimitri Diatchenko) and a Willoughby of the British Air Force (portrayed by Vinnie Jones) to get the job done.

With only four people to do the job, will they be able to to deliver the important papers to Kestrel  in German territory?

VIDEO:

“Company of Heroes” is presented in 1080p High Definition and featured in 1:78:1 aspect ratio.  First, I need to emphasize that this film was made with a low budget and this is not a huge World War II production.  While Director Don Michael Paul knew the budget limitations for “Company of Heroes”, for the most part, he was able to make things work by focusing on the characters and for surroundings, making things ominous by having the characters in snow and around trees and branches.  But skin tones do look natural, close-ups were very effective and black levels were very good.

The film relied on characters taking action during the dark or in the snow and for that, it does give an ominous presence towards the film. But what makes the film feel like World War II is through the costume design by Anna Gelinova (“Hitman”, “Expendables 2”).  While I’m not an erudite on World War II garb, the crew did their research in trying to make the film look as authentic as possible with the limitations that they had.   You’re not going to see a wide shot of a plethora of tanks or hundreds of soldiers but the shots and action sequences were carefully planned.  I didn’t need so much to see blood spurting out as much but the film does look good on Blu-ray and for the most part, I do feel that with the budget that the crew had, they made the film feel right in terms of presentation.  I didn’t notice any aliasing or specks or any problems with picture quality during my viewing.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Company of Heroes” is presented in English, French and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  Fortunately, there are a good number of heavy action scenes that utilized the surround channels with efficacy.  Dialogue is crystal clear, as well as musical score by Frederik Weidmann (“Hostel Part III”).

Subtitles are in English, Engish SDH, Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin, Traditional), Chinese (Mandarin, Simplified), Dutch, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Company of Heroes” come with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scene: Kestrel and Squad Meet in a Safe House – (2:57) One deleted scene.
  • In the Trenches – (10:28) Featuring interviews with Director Don Michael Paul, producer Jeff Beach and the cast and discussion of the differences between the film and the video game.
  • Fabricating World War II – (5:41) Director Don Michael Paul discusses making a war movie and trying to make it look authentic as possible on a low budget.

EXTRAS:

“Company of Heroes” comes with an UltraViolet code which allows for one to download their film to a computer or on select Apple and Android devices and to stream to computers, tablets or smartphones.

The first thing that fans of “Company of Heroes” will wonder is “if the film is any good?”.

I can understand.  A low-budget war film that went straight from direct-to-video and a director who does not have an A-list film to his credit may turn some people off.

But you never know as one may be able to make something incredible as Stanley Kubrick accomplished with a very low budget for his film debut and his war film, “Fear and Desire”.  Or something disappointing and not worth your time.

With Don Michael Collins, I have to say that when it comes to a popcorn action World War II film, he was able to create an entertaining film despite operating with a low budget.

First, let me just say that this is not a film that is deep in plot.  Nor is it a film where one who is used to watching big budget action, will see a plethora of tanks, soldiers or a film about company bravado like the “Band of Brothers” TV series.

But what we have is a war film about a group of soldiers facing a significant challenge in recovering a defecting German scientist who is in charge of a secret weapons program.

While some may feel it is farfetched to have four soldiers (two Americans, one British and one Soviet) accomplishing a mighty task, this is not one of those films where you search for World War II accuracy.  Like the video game in which operations are inspired by true events but not exact events, having played many World War II video games, part of that excitement in the video game is trying to defeat the enemy, with what you have.  In this case, not much of trying to defeat the enemy with a large military force but to find the German scientist and leave!

I don’t care to see much in a war film is the overuse of blood squirting out of someones neck nor do I want to see a love angle in a war film.  The film incorporated a little of each but nothing that made me feel too bad about the film.

As for the positives…a positive factor about this film is that it incorporates a few well-known names who have appeared on major big budget war films.  Tom Sizemore is best known for his roles in “Saving Private Ryan” and “Black Hawk Down”, Neal McDonough had appeared in “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Captain America: The First Avenger”, Jurgen Prochnow of “Das Boot” and “The English Patient” and Richard Sammel of “Inglorious Basterds” and you have others who also appeared on bigger budget film as well.

With a tight schedule, low budget and only a day to film with a tank but still make the film feel believable and authentic, I just felt that with what Don Michael Paul had to work with, he and his crew did a good job.  Anna Gelinova was able to make the costume design feel right and to have cinematography focus on locations that take part in the dark, around snow or dirt, the crew and cast managed to make things work!

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality was very good.  Great detail on close-ups.  Lossless audio also featured good use of the surround channels and there were a few special features included.  It would have been great to have audio commentary included with this Blu-ray release.

Overall, “Company of Heroes” is a popcorn action World War II film that may not be as memorable compared to many other World War II films out there, but I did find it entertaining.  Will fans of the video game enjoy this film?  I think that it will be subjective, but I do feel that for its low budget and the fact that the film does star a several well-known talent, the end result was much better than I expected.






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