21 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, the movie boasted a fine transfer.
Virtually no issues with sharpness materialized. Only a smidgen of softness ever appeared, as the majority of the flick looked concise and accurate.
No signs of jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge enhancement. In addition, source flaws were absent from this clean presentation.
In terms of palette, the image opted for Hollywood Standard Orange and Teal. Within the design parameters, the hues seemed appropriate.
Blacks were also deep and firm, and shadows looked smooth and clear. This image consistently impressed.
As for the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of 21, it was less stellar, but it worked fine for the movie. The soundfield tended to be ambience-oriented. Some exaggerated effects for card scenes added zip to the mix, and the casino floors also opened things up in an involving manner.
Music showed good use of all the channels and became a dynamic part of the track. This wasn’t a dazzling soundscape, but it brought some zip to the film.
Audio quality always seemed solid. Music was full and rich, with clear highs and tight lows.
Effects sounded accurate and dynamic as well, and speech was good. Dialogue came across as natural and concise. The track lacked the ambition for a grade above a “B”, but it was more than acceptable for a flick of this sort.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? The lossless audio boasted a bit more range and oomph, while visuals seemed tighter and more vivid. This turned into a nice upgrade.
The Blu-ray replicates the DVD’s extras, and we open with an audio commentary from director Robert Luketic and producers Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat that looks at cast and performances, sets and locations, how all the participants came to the project, aspects of card-playing, the adaptation of the source material, and a few other production topics.
The participants provide an enjoyable but generally insubstantial commentary. They touch on a reasonably number of useful subjects but don’t manage to bring a lot of depth to the affair. Still, they keep it breezy and entertaining, so it’s a pleasant listen.
Next we find three featurettes. The Advantage Player runs five minutes, 26 seconds and provides notes from various actors as they tell us a quick history of blackjack and the simple methods you can use to count cards. That made it 2008’s winner for the Disc Extra Most Likely to Get Your Thumbs Broken.
Will the techniques work? Dunno, but it’s a fun little tutorial.
Basic Strategy: A Complete Film Journal runs 24 minutes, 48 seconds and features comments from Luketic, Brunetti, De Luca, novelist Ben Mezrich, original MIT student Jeff Ma, screenwriter Peter Steinfeld, technical advisor Kyle Morris, director of photography Russell Carpenter, production designer Missy Stewart, visual effects supervisor Gray Marshall, and actors Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne, Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Aaron Yoo, Liza Lapira, and Jacob Pitts.
We learn about the source text and its adaptation, cast, characters and performances, aspects of the casinos and card-playing, cinematography and visual storytelling, shooting in Las Vegas and Boston, sets and locations, effects, and some general thoughts.
I wouldn’t actually call this program “complete”, but it provides a pretty good little overview. We find a mix of nice shots from the set as well as useful comments from those involved. The show creates a positive summary of the production and entertains along the way.
Finally, Money Plays: A Tour of the Good Life goes for seven minutes, eight seconds, and provides remarks from Stewart, Bosworth, Luketic, Sturgess, and costume designer Luca Mosca.
“Tour” offers a basic glimpse of some visual design choices, primarily in terms of sets and clothes. It doesn’t tell us a lot, but Mosca does set a record for the number of times one person says “beautiful” in a short featurette, as almost literally every sentence he utters includes that word.
New to the Blu-ray, Virtual Blackjack let you play on your TV. It offers a tutorial version or free style, and if you connect to the Internet, you can post your scores. It’s nothing you couldn’t get via an app, but it’s a painless extra.