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February 11, 2008
The Fifth Element Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
15/5/199723/10/2007Sony PicturesLuc Besson
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby Digital 5.1 448kbps
PCM 5.1 4.6Mbps
PGBruce Willis

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Our retail copy also lists Ian Holm on the cover!?
Ever since I saw The Fifth Element in the cinemas over a decade ago I have been in love with this movie. To me, it is one of the most impressive action movies of the 1990's with a visual style rarely seen in action movies, a great cast, superb action sequence and a strong storyline. A decade on and The Fifth Element still holds up remarkably well. If you haven't seen this film yet then you're in for something very special indeed.

So what's the storyline of The Fifth Element you ask? Well listen up... New York cab driver Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) didn't mean to become a hero, he just picked up the kind of fare that only comes along every five thousand years: a perfect beauty, a perfect being, a perfect weapon. Now, together they must save the world.

While it may sound rather simplistic the movie can be quite complex, but never to the point of confusion. Indeed after an opening which shows the origins of The Fifth Element it's pretty much non-stop action from then on. Few could ever forget the first time you see Milla Jovovich as Leeloo and her escape into Korben Dallas' taxi.

French director Luc Besson was at his best yet again with this movie which is easily up there with his other classics including Leon (aka The Professional) and La Femme Nikita. The acting from all participants is also impressive especially from Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm and Milla Jovovich. Chris Tucker as TV presenter Ruby Rhod certainly divides opinion. He's loud, obnoxious, and squeals like a girl, but I actually loved him in the role as it brings a comedic and liveliness to the movie. Other people though have quite a different opinion of the role, but that's their prerogative.

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Multi-pass, Multi-pass, Multi-pass!
Of course it is impossible to discuss the visual style of this movie without mentioning that Costume Design was handled by none other then Jean-Paul Gaultier, the same individual who created one of the most iconic costumes of all time with Madonna's cone bra! Visual effects are also extremely impressive and still hold up very well today - in particular the flying sequence around future New York City and the many scenes of Earth from space.

I loved The Fifth Element in cinemas, I loved it on DVD and I still love it now on Blu-Ray. This is an action-packed non-stop thrill ride with a decent plot and solid acting. This is one of the best action movies of the last decade (well, just over) and we certainly recommend it to fans of the genre.

The first thing I must point out is that Australia has received the updated, re-encoded, and much improved second version of The Fifth Element on Blu-Ray. The original was released in America in the early days of the Blu-Ray format (well before the PS3 hit the shelves) and was marred by film effects, a blurry image and inconsistencies throughout. This release, while not super-pristine, is vastly superior.

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The Diva, Plavalaguna.
Using the AVC MPEG-4 codec and presented in the movies original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 this really is a stunning presentation on Blu-Ray which is light years ahead of the DVD releases of The Fifth Element, including the Superbit release. Colours are vibrant throughout from Leeloo's red hair to the busy streets of future New York City complete with flying cars, billboards, neon signs and other effects. The detail, even in the background remains impressive as well with the smallest items visible. One of many shining examples of the video quality in this picture can be seen during Leeloo's escape and dive into Korben's taxi from 30:26 to 32:45. It truly is a sensational experience on a large 1080p TV or projector.

Despite the overall brilliance of this transfer there are still a couple of minor complaints which we can level at the picture. Firstly there is some slight edge enhancement visible in a couple of shots, and also some grain and film dirt. The opening credits also exhibit some telecine wobble which is disappointing while some other shots are a little blurrier then we expected (for example the shot which shows the Egyptian ruins at 2:37 to 2:43). Given the age of the movie and the overall experience this is still a standout Blu-Ray release.

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Characters makeup is quite superb.
As with the video, the audio experience is very impressive. There are two tracks in English. The first is a solid but slightly dull sounding Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 448kbps which, given that even the DVD release managed an impressive 768kbps DTS track is somewhat disappointing. It is watchable, but certainly not as good as we have heard the movie in the past on DVD.

Fortunately the second audio option is a stunningly impressive PCM 5.1 Uncompressed track at 4.6Mbps. This track is certainly the preferred option when listening to this movie with a great dynamic range, crystal clear effects, aggressive use of surround sound channels and solid use of the sub-woofer. It's true that the sound design is a little more reserved then the latest big budget releases but that's understandable when you consider this movie is now over a decade old. It does still stand up extremely well today.

There is only one other language on the disc, Spanish, however it gets the same treatment as the English tracks. That is a Spanish PCM 5.1 Uncompressed at 4.6Mbps and also a Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448kbps. Subtitles on the disc include English, English SDH and Spanish; a bit below what we have come to expect from many Sony Pictures release.

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Gary Oldman is brilliant as the evil Zorg.
The one aspect of this Blu-Ray release which is bitterly disappointing is the lack of extras. While a 2-Disc DVD set was released in late 2005 with numerous featurettes including make-up tests, behind the scenes footage, and audio commentaries which could take up at least a few hours of your life, this Blu-Ray release is missing most of those features.

Pop-Up Trivia Track: In English or Spanish this places a fair amount of trivia regarding the movie onto the screen as it plays. It's nice to have, but you'll be doing a lot of reading and most could have been covered in a decent audio commentary.

The Fifth Element is one of my all-time favourite movies, and the transfer to Blu-Ray is nothing short of spectacular. Yes, we are bitterly disappointed that, despite the dual layer 50GB disc, there are no extras besides the trivia track but for lovers of the movie the improvements of this Blu-Ray transfer over standard DVD makes the investment well worthwhile. The Fifth Element is out now.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Sony Pictures. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.