Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
Joel interviews the MIFF team to find out what's in this year's program announcement! Click to listen to our special SWITCHCast ep now.x
review, Waterloo, Waterloo, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, home entertainment, DVD, Blu-ray, Rod Steiger, Christopher Plummer, Orson Welles, Jack Hawkins, Virginia McKenna, Dan O'Herlihy, Rupert Davies, Philippe Forquet, Gianni Garko, Ivo Garrani, Sergey Bondarchuk, Action, Biography, Drama, History, War




By Daniel Lammin
31st May 2020

This week, we're taking a look at some of the first titles from Imprint Films, a new premium-label Blu-ray series from Via Vision Entertainment, featuring world-first releases of classic films. Each month, new titles are added to the collection, featuring new transfers, exclusive special features and more, and the first 1,500 units come with a beautifully designed slipcase. As far as boutique home entertainment releases go, Imprint is already proving a welcome addition for Australian audiences.

Our next title is the world-first Blu-ray release of the mammoth 1970 historical epic 'Waterloo'.

Co-produced by Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis and the Soviet film studio Mosfilm, 'Waterloo' is essentially a historical recreation of the legendary battle on the 18th of June 1815 between the French forces of Napoleon Bonaparte (Rod Steiger, 'In The Heat of the Night') and the British forces of the Duke of Wellington (Christopher Plummer, 'All the Money in the World'), the battle that essentially ended Napoleon's campaign to dominate Europe. The first act focuses entirely on Napoleon, his initial exile and his return to power in France, while the second act puts all the pieces in place for the battle, and the final, gargantuan act presents a startling recreation of the battle itself.

The film was placed in the hands of Soviet director Sergei Bondarchuk, who in the mid-1960s had directed the magnificent seven-hour Soviet-funded adaptation of Tolstoy's 'War and Peace'. This experience made him possibly the only director capable of realising a film of the scale of 'Waterloo', the battle scenes in 'War and Peace' being the largest and maybe the greatest ever captured on film. The final act of 'Waterloo' sees tens of thousands of extras choreographed into the chaos of battle, astoundingly visceral and mindboggling to behold when you consider that every element in the frame is being captured in-camera. Bondarchuk somehow balances the chaos and enormous scale of the battle without sacrificing the clarity of its narrative, but perhaps his greatest asset to 'Waterloo', both in the battle sequences and in the film in general, is his singular ability to visually realise and capture the epic. Within one frame, we can see thousands of men on horseback charging across a field, with explosions all around them, and men and horses collapsing mid-run, while the camera frantically races with them, and despite the film's age and the historical nature of its subject, it always feels immediate and dangerous. He isn't simply presenting the battle but digging deep into the experience and psychology of it, including astounding uses of slow motion and helicopter shots. Though they never quite reach the same jaw-dropping awe of the battles in 'War and Peace', the battle in 'Waterloo' is easily one of the greatest staged in an English-language film.


The problem is that, while the final act is tremendous, the first two never find their feet. This isn't necessarily a fault of Bondarchuk, who fulfils the requirements of the sweeping Hollywood epic while still employing his own distinctive idiosyncratic techniques (whispered voiceover, moments of breaking the fourth wall, wild and crazy camera techniques that no American or British director would ever think of). The fault is in the screenplay - it spends most of its time focused on Steiger's brooding Napoleon, but this is Napoleon as an icon, not a character. The film doesn't give us a strong emotional connection to any of its protagonists, so by the time we reach the battle, it's hard to be emotionally engaged with it. It also leads Steiger towards a histrionic, emotionally wrought performance, though Plummer has a lot more wit and music as Wellington. The film also never makes clear its intentions other than being an effective recreation of a historical event. Its scale and prestige inevitably place it in the same field of Napoleonic films as Bondarchuk's 'War and Peace' and Abel Gance's silent film epic 'Napoleon' (1927), but 'Waterloo' lacks their psychological complexity and, despite its enormous scale, feels lacking.

The result is as a film that, while technically impressive, feels emotionally distant. Bondarchuk and cinematographer Armando Nannuzzi never hide the influence of Napoleonic paintings on the visual language of the film, but that's essentially what 'Waterloo' becomes - a piece of history told at arm's length from the distance of time. As difficult as it is to emotionally engage with, 'Waterloo' is still an impressive production, all the more so as a demonstration of Sergei Bondarchuk's remarkable ability for balancing the inner world of his characters and the spiritual horror of war with the ultimate expression of the epic in cinema. For those reasons alone, 'Waterloo' is certainly a film that deserves attention.

The battle in 'Waterloo' is easily one of the greatest staged in an English-language film.

Of the three Imprint titles reviewed so far, 'Waterloo' is the most technically robust. The 1080p 2.35:1 transfer provided by Sony is very strong, with excellent detail throughout with very little sign of damage and healthy film grain. Some DNR may have been applied, but not in a distracting manner. What is most interesting though are the colours, slightly sickly and desaturated at points. One could blame incorrect colour timing, but the look also matches the strange use of colour in Bondarchuk's 'War and Peace', especially in the use of grey makeup on the actors, which suggests that it may be an artistic decision or a result of the film's Soviet production rather than a fault in the transfer itself. It will be a potentially strange experience for some audiences, but once you get used to it, it ceases to be distracting. The transfer comes with a robust DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that really comes into its own in the final battle, creating an equally overwhelming aural experience. The disc also comes with an LPCM 2.0 track.

'Waterloo' only comes with one featurette, a theatrical trailer (3:29) and an Imprint trailer, but the featurette, 'Sheldon Hall on Waterloo' (37:36) is terrific. A film historian who has written extensively on epic cinema, Hall gives a detailed account on the making of the film, from its development right through to release. The featurette, produced exclusively for this release by Via Vision, is probably the best on any of the Imprint releases we've reviewed so far, and a valuable companion to the film.

As with the other films, the disc is presented in a sturdy slipcase with the original poster artwork, and alternate artwork on the case, though not quite as striking an alternative as the other releases.

RUN TIME: 2h 3m
CAST: Rod Steiger
Christopher Plummer
Orson Welles
Jack Hawkins
Virginia McKenna
Dan O'Herlihy
Rupert Davies
Philippe Forquet
Gianni Garko
Ivo Garrani
DIRECTOR: Sergey Bondarchuk
PRODUCER: Dino De Laurentiis
Cosmic Sin - A film that delivers on the promise of its title
TRENDINGCOSMIC SINA film that delivers on the promise of its title
Pocahontas - 25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
TRENDINGPOCAHONTAS25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
Who the hell is Bloodshot? - A primer on Vin Diesel's superhero
TRENDINGWHO THE HELL IS BLOODSHOT?A primer on Vin Diesel's superhero
Revisiting 'Dark City' 20 years later - The most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
TRENDINGREVISITING 'DARK CITY' 20 YEARS LATERThe most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
Gallipoli - A powerful and important film remembered
TRENDINGGALLIPOLIA powerful and important film remembered
The World at War - The landmark documentary series restored in high definition
TRENDINGTHE WORLD AT WARThe landmark documentary series restored in high definition
Malila: The Farewell Flower - Contemplating love and loss
Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two - New villains, same problems
Buckley's Chance - Not worth a chance
Calm with Horses - A savage and sensitive Irish crime drama
TRENDINGCALM WITH HORSESA savage and sensitive Irish crime drama
Shiva Baby - A comedy of discomfort
TRENDINGSHIVA BABYA comedy of discomfort
The Glass Room - Stunning yet soulless
TRENDINGTHE GLASS ROOMStunning yet soulless
Some Kind of Heaven - A bizarre lens into a Floridian retirement village
TRENDINGSOME KIND OF HEAVENA bizarre lens into a Floridian retirement village
25 Free-to-Watch Short Horror Films - The scariest shorts we uncovered online
TRENDING25 FREE-TO-WATCH SHORT HORROR FILMSThe scariest shorts we uncovered online
The Swallows of Kabul - Unflinching and gorgeously animated
TRENDINGTHE SWALLOWS OF KABULUnflinching and gorgeously animated
Cerulean Blue - Promising debut for a new voice in Australian cinema
TRENDINGCERULEAN BLUEPromising debut for a new voice in Australian cinema
The Violin Player - Sex and strings
2:22 - Mind-bending metaphysical mumbo-jumbo
TRENDING2:22Mind-bending metaphysical mumbo-jumbo
Birds of Prey - I'm here to report a terrible crime: DC has saved cinema
TRENDINGBIRDS OF PREYI'm here to report a terrible crime: DC has saved cinema
La Dolce Vita - Not as sweet as you'd think 60 years on
TRENDINGLA DOLCE VITANot as sweet as you'd think 60 years on
© 2011 - 2021 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us!