The Reader (Blu-ray)

In 1958, Hannah (Kate Winslet) has a passionate summer affair with a young neighborhood boy named Michael (David Kross and Ralph Fiennes), but then disappears with no explanation, leaving Michael emotionally scarred. Eight years later, she resurfaces as one of the defendants in a war-crimes trial stemming from her actions during World War II. Michael realizes he has information that can set her free and must decide whether or not to save her.

I've now seen all but one film that was nominated for Best Picture in 2008—the only one left is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (May 5, 2009 Blu-ray release)—but thus far, this is my favorite of the nominees. Kate Winslet's Oscar-winning performance is amazing, and the provocative subject matter had me on the edge of my seat. Speaking of Winslet, she's never been shy in front of a camera when it comes to nudity, and she bares all throughout the first act. To the detractors who say she's overweight, I beg to differ.

The AVC encode looks very good with a flawless print and excellent detail. Shadow detail is above average with slightly elevated black levels, but bright daytime shots look outstanding, especially in the European countryside. Resolution rarely falters, with only the occasional soft shot in an otherwise solid presentation.

The dialog-heavy Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is very front loaded and has a pedestrian sound design. The surround speakers rarely come to life for anything other than ambience, and the LFE channel is virtually silent. The score by Nico Muhly is very engrossing and features a full-bodied midrange. It's the highlight of an otherwise humdrum audio track.

The bonus features include 11 deleted scenes, some behind-the-scenes featurettes, a piece on composer Nico Muhly, and a theatrical trailer. The deleted scenes explore the characters in more depth, but they would have ruined the pacing if included in the final cut.

I'm a sucker for a good drama, and The Reader hooked me five minutes in. I've always been a big fan of Kate Winslet, and her performance is brilliant and captivating as an aging ex-Nazi. The tepid audio doesn't detract from the near-reference video presentation. Highly recommended.

Release Date: April 28, 2009
Studio: The Weinstein Company

Movie: 10/10
Picture: 9/10
Sound: 7/10

Review System

Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player

JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 power amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector

Acoustical treatments from GIK Acoustics