The Captain – Blu-ray Review
Film Title: The Captain
Release Date: 2017
Rating: NOT RATED
Runtime: 120 minutes
Region Coding: Region A
Studio: Music Box Films
Audio Format: DTS-HD MA 5.1 & 2.0
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Formats Available: Blu-ray
Version Reviewed: Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Release Date: 01/08/19
Director: Robert Schwentke
Cast: Max Hubacher, Milan Peschel, Frederick Lau, Bernd Hölscher, Waldemar Kobus, Alexander Fehling, Samuel Finzi, Wolfram Koch
“The Captain” was a 2017 German independent film, based on a true story. The film was both written and directed by Robert Schwentke. Schwentke is best known for his work other such films as “Flightplan” (2005), “The Time Traveler’s Wife” (2009), “RED” (2010), “R.I.P.D.” (2011), as well as most recently “Insurgent” (2015) and “Allegiant” (2016).
As mentioned, this is based on a true story that took place during the last weeks of World War II in Germany. The main character here was a deserter from the German army by the name of “Willi Herold” (Max Hubacher). As we are first introduced to Herold in the opening moments of the film, he’s literally on the run from the German army and being shot at by a drunken ranking officer. He manages to run off into the forest and hides, escaping being captured and sent to a detention camp.
After Herold has come to the realization that he is safe (for the time being) he goes off walking and stumbles across an abandoned car that was used by the army. He’s cautious at first to approach, but after some further inspection he decides to check out the car. It’s not at all a “spoiler” here to tell you that he manages to find a suitcase in that car. That suitcase contains some food, which he first eats hurriedly, but most importantly it includes the uniform of a German Captain rank officer, as well as his other personal items. In torn Private rank clothes he decides to take the risk of impersonating an officer and steals the Captain’s uniform, putting it on.
As Herold gets used to wearing this Captain outfit, he almost starts to act out how he’s seen other higher rank officers behave and in turn starts to put on a persona of a person that he is not. Essentially, we are witnessing the man become a con-man just to stay alive and not be captured for being a deserter, let alone for impersonating an officer. So, thus is born (of sorts) the identity of “Captain Herold” at first we believe for the sake of keeping the young man alive. It’s not very long before he finds another member of the army who is alone, who requests permission to join him. This man “Freytag” (Milan Peschel) will become his second in command, and his chauffeur to drive the car he also found.
Now we have Captain Herold and Freytag off on their journey and they come across some more soldiers. It’s only a matter of time before he’s assembled a small group of men under his command, and the film’s tagline of “follow the leader” becomes true. All from just one very young man who is impersonating an officer, conning those around him in troubled times just to stay alive. It’s also apparent after a while that our main character gets a tad bit way too into the character and doesn’t come across as the greatest human being – regardless of his situation and the situation of what was going on during these latter weeks of the second world war.
This film can be funny, in a very dark manner, but it mostly can be very disturbing and captures some of the sad things that were done at this point in time. It’s a powerful film, that comes with some excellent cinematography, originally composed music, and performances from the cast of German actors. This is a film that I would suggest to most anyone of the mature age to understand what it represents.
Movie Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
“The Captain” is presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, as it was shown theatrically. No real info is out there regarding how the movie was shot on the typical source for that: IMDb. I’ve done some research here to find out. As mentioned by the director Robert Schwentke, in the opening bit of his audio Commentary, the very beginning of the film was shot on the Arri Alexa 65 camera, the rest was shot on a regular Alexa? By regular I assume that he means the Arri Alexa XT camera, one he used on the movie he did before this. That’s only my assumption, though, as to what camera the majority of the film was shot on specifically.
It is for sure known that the entire film was shot digitally. Schwentke admits to loving digital and not being a fan of film grain, at all. He shot this using spherical, and not typical anamorphic lenses. The film’s director of photography was Florian Ballhaus, a man who has worked with the director on a majority of his previous films.
A movie in black & white isn’t as common these days as it was, and here is not used to be different but instead set the visual style of the time period. The last few recent films that were just black & white that come to mind for me include just a handful, such as “The Artist” and “Schindler’s List” – both Academy Award winners. It’s usually considered a very artistic and tasteful choice, and this is no exception. Just like with Schindler’s List this fits the World War II time period perfect in terms of visuals, as mentioned. It should be said that one scene does include color, but that is of modern day and a location where a scene took place in the film. The story and even end credits are presented in just black and white.
The black level here is solid, delivering a lot of sharp crisp detail – especially in close-ups. The brighter scenes can look very impressive, as do even some of the darker scenes as well. This looks great to be just using two major colors, with obvious shades. It seems to be presented with some form of B&W tinting, in my opinion. There are no signs here of any compression problems or anything negative to speak of. The high definition presentation is impressive from start to finish, doing the cinematography justice.
Video Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Audio here is presented in German DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo, both including English subtitles. Subtitles here are only offered in English. No other languages get subtitles on this release, not even German.
Note: I will only be focusing here on the 5.1 sound mix, and not the 2.0 Stereo. The German lossless 5.1 mix comes with some great rear channel presence all throughout the film, as well as with a nice amount of bass that can mostly be heard via the subwoofer. Dialogue is primarily driven from the center channel speaker, and blends (even to those who don’t speak the language) together nicely with the other elements like the music and sound effects.
The music is mostly delivered from the front left and right channel speakers here, and can at times have a nice amount of both rear channel presence and bass. The original music composed for this film certainly is done justice here with this 5.1 mix. The old traditional German songs that are sung throughout get a bit more than just the center channel speaker use for singing, which can fill the mix up a tad bit with a lot of front channel usage, and even slight rear channel presence. Small rooms will fill filled with laughter, gasps, cheering or such and as a result, seems pretty realistic for those types of atmospheres.
There are some specific times in the film where pretty extreme action scenes come along (not at all a spoiler to say). These action sequences are when the sound effects can get the most impressive, as well as intense. A few scenes, in particular, involving an anti-aircraft gun being used come to mind here as great examples of what this 5.1 mix can truly offer up, at times enough to get you on the edge of your seat.
Now, obviously I do not speak German so this meant reading subtitles and not so much taking dialogue mostly for something to judge the emotions that went with the words on the screen. “The Captain” in its debut to Blu-ray comes with a commendable 5.1 lossless mix that left me just as much captivated by its presentation (in terms of audio quality) as the film itself. The Stereo lossless mix, from what I sampled of it, also proves to be just as impressive but on a more simplistic level.
Audio Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Bonus materials on this release are presented HD (high definition) video with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. They include the following:
Audio Commentary by Director Robert Schwentke – is a must-listen after you’ve watched this film. As you’ll be able to tell, the director speaks fluent English and has a great love for old cinema.
Filmmaker Q&A from Chicago Premiere (31:52 – HD) took place at the Music Box Theatre and features the film’s writer/director Robert Schwentke. This proves to be absolutely a must-watch after seeing the film. The film’s director was born in Germany but is very fluent in English – almost better than most Americans. He’s also directed a lot of major Hollywood films in English as you’ll see on IMDb. This is one very informative interview and you get a Q&A approach with some questions from folks in the audience. This features some excellent cinematography and video quality. Music Box did a great job here, having this recorded this well. Fans of the film will really likely enjoy this featurette the most. It adds a whole lot of history and information regarding the making of the film and true story it is based on.
Cast and Crew Interviews (11:42 – HD) can be seen using a ‘play all’ function or individually for each person. Those interviewed here include actors Max Hubacher, Milan Preschel, Frederick Lau, and producer Frieder Schlaich. These interviews are all presented in the German language with English subtitles. It’s a Q&A type EPK set style of material, where a question is asked (presented on screen), and after a fade-in, the person then responds, over and over. These were originally intended to be used for entertainment programming the marketing of the film. You’ll have to understand that. Once you’ve got past that, you should really appreciate these interviews as they do shed some light onto the making of the film, and what all these three actors put into their performances, as well as from one of the film’s producers. One of my favorite facts I learned here was that the director actually chose to let the film’s star (Hubacher) shoot the film in chronological order. This allowed him to put so much more into each scene, having just shot the ones before and being able to fully develop the character along the way.
From Storyboard to Screen: The Escape gives us a comparison to things such as the original storyboard, models, props, and sketches for a few specific scenes of the film with the final footage. You also get to see a decent amount of on set footage right during the filmmaking. This allows you to actually see how they managed to accomplish these particular scenes. This is in the German language and comes with English subtitles. The featurette can be viewed with a ‘play all’ function or individually for certain sections. Those sections of this are as follows:
Storyboard to Film Comparison (3:57 – HD)
Shooting The Chase (8:14 – HD)
Making The Hiding Place (5:00 – HD)
Shooting The Hiding Place (9:23 – HD)
“The Escape” Final Scene (3:08 – HD)
Deleted Scene (2:44 – HD) This features German audio with forced English subtitles. I will not discuss this scene, to avoid any spoilers. I will say that it adds some more to the film, and I can’t really see why it was deleted. It would have fit well into the rest of the film if you realize where it was cut from.
- “Recomposed” Soundtrack Video (3:14 – HD) was composed by Martin Todsharow. This features the composer’s music put together with clips from the film in a very tasteful artistic manner. It will make you realize how much his music really contributed to the feel of this film. I found this to be enjoyable, and very different than something you’d find on typical American major motion pictures.
Theatrical Trailer (2:01 – HD) is in German, with English subtitles.
Trailers for other releases from Music Box Films are included at the beginning of the Blu-ray Disc.
Overall the bonus materials put together here by the folks at Music Box Films are very informative, worthwhile and solid – clocking in at near an hour and a half in length (not including the audio commentary). It’s enough that left me feeling very pleased with the amount I learned after watching the film. I have to admit to actually even listening through about half of the audio commentary here, as it proved to be very insightful. I plan to eventually finish listening to that, after this review so that I can enjoy it a tad bit more.
Bonus Materials Rating: 4 (out of 5)
“The Captain” is a very dark film, yet it has some sense of comedy to it, behind the madness. It’s a film that’s probably (admittedly) not for everyone, but it does shed some light onto a true story that has some creative liberties taken. It shows us that you didn’t need to be the man responsible for World War II to be just as evil if given the opportunity. Let’s just say that this film is unlike anything you’ll see, and it comes from Germany – appropriately enough – and from a German-born director.
The video and audio presentation you get here in HD and in the lossless 5.1 and Stereo mixes are both impressive. It’s one of the finest black & white films I’ve seen in some time and brings back memories of films like “Schindler’s List” (also set during this war). The cinematography translates over very nicely to high def and the audio mix has some really nice moments, putting you right there in the middle of it all. Finally, you get a nice set of extras to round out what I have to say is a Recommended (for most) overall verdict.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
4.5 (out of 5) for video quality
4.5 (out of 5) for audio quality
4 (out of 5) for bonus materials