This film was made more than eleven years ago, and is only coming out now due to its co-star Tom Hardy, who can recently be seen as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. It's also funny that Hardy is only a co-star, but his name and image are featured all over the Blu-ray cover, posters, and film. I think the Inception Media Group is banking on a shelved film here whose co-star is now one of the bigger names in Hollywood. These things happen from time to time and they don't necessarily make for good movie watching experiences.
'Deserter' is similar to Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket as it goes from boot camp to war, but Kubrick's film is better on every level, even though Tom Hardy is great here. The film is based on a true story and follows Englishman Simon Murray (Paul Fox), who joins the French Foreign Legion for reasons unexplained during a highly volatile and politically charged time. The real Simon Murray even served as a creative consultant and executive producer on the film. But that didn't stop the production from imploding with its chaotic direction and poor script.
Murray is shipped off to training camp, where he and the other recruits are physically and emotionally tortured by their superiors, so much so that the boot camp segment in 'Full Metal Jacket' looks like a cake-walk. While there, Murray meets fellow soldier Pascal Dupont (Hardy) who is a Frenchman, or shall I say a French Algerian, but he has kept that secret from his superiors as he wouldn't be eligible to join the Foreign Legion. The recruits go through weeks of rigorous training, which doesn't bode well for some soldiers.
After training, the recruits that are left hit the front lines. However, during a pivotal moment in the film, Dupont's true colors shine, which puts Murray and Dupont on opposing sides. And I imagine, the title of the film 'Deserter' comes from the duality of both men, where Dupont obviously is some sort of traitor. It becomes a matter of who really is the 'Deserter'. There is a love story thrown into the mix as well. And just to prove how chaotic this story can be, Murray doesn't really give a reason as why he has joined the military, as he doesn't seem to be avoiding his home-life, since every time he contacts his family and friends back home, he becomes homesick.
There are a few good moments throughout 'Deserter' to warrant a viewing from fans of this particular genre of film. Hardy is excellent, but Paul Fox is fairly stale, but that might be due to the fact that his character and dialogue are uninteresting. He plays a simple and generic soldier who does everything he's told to do by his superiors. Nothing more, nothing less. Some of the battle scenes are intense and well shot, but the script and whacky story-telling bring this movie down. Look out for cameos by Felicite Du Jeu (Casino Royale) and Yorick van Wageningen (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo).
'Deserter' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The detail looks fairly good for the most part that has solid facial defining on the actors and shows fine stitching in the soldiers uniforms. The colors are well-saturated and seem to pop off screen. The black levels run deep and inky, especially during the evening scenes.
During a few scenes before Murray arrives at boot camp, the image is a bit softer and looks more filmic, as opposed to the sharp HD quality of the rest of the film. There were a few instances of motion blur and noise, but no banding or aliasing to speak of. Overall, given this type of release, it has a decent video presentation, but nothing demo worthy.
This release comes with a sub-par Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix. Dialogue is always clear and easy to understand, even under the gunfire and explosions. Unfortunately, the surrounds do not get a good workout here, and this being a war movie, that's almost unforgivable. While there are helicopters flying, bullets whizzing by, and soldiers yelling all over the place, you'd think we would be immersed in decent sound from all speakers.
Wrong. 98% of the sound comes from the front only, with whispers of ambient noises and other sound effects trickling out of the rears. The score is even underwhelming and adds a cheesy flare to the whole story. Sure, the sound is loud at times, but this being in 5.1 and a war film, it should have received a better audio mix.
'Deserter' is one of those movies left on the shelf without a clue what to do with it marketing wise or release wise. Luckily, Tom Hardy became ultra famous and now we have this decade old movie to see. However, the film isn't that great. it has some interesting moments, but overall, the script, dialogue, and zany direction kill this movie. No extras and a shoddy audio presentation don't do this release any favors either. If you're a fan of the genre, rent it first.