Realism isn't one of a 'Company of Heroes' chief concerns; by the way, neither are acting, the staging of action scenes, or providing anything remotely resembling a competent World War II movie. Okay, I must admit that it's a little hard to be this harsh on an ultra-low-budget movie like this. It's obvious that there wasn't a lot of money to go around, so the filmmakers made do with what they had. Making a World War II movie on a shoestring budget isn't easy.
The plot revolves around a group of Army infantry that have been ordered to deliver this year's Christmas hams to the troops. An officer played by Neal McDonough informs the group that the war is all but over. The only Germans left in the mountains are boys with broken guns and no ammunition. This should be a cake walk. Since movies about delivering a load of Christmas hams tend to be on the dull side, Neal McDonough is utterly wrong.
The group is made up of a bunch of redshirts, so to speak. Meaning most of these guys will get picked off one by one. They soon come in contact with an endless line of German soldiers and Panzer tanks. Since the movie doesn't have the budget to show huge battle scenes, the camera zooms in really close and has a couple dozen guys run by the camera to give it the illusion that more is going on than really is.
Chad Michael Collins ('Sniper: Reloaded') is the company's defacto leader after their stalwart leader catches a few German bullets. He teams up with an ex-officer who has now been relegated to the status of cook, played by Tom Sizemore. Later on they'll meet up with a wise-cracking Vinnie Jones, because all Vinnie Jones does anymore is play a wise-cracking Brit in small-budget movies.
The men have stumbled upon a dastardly Nazi plot that involves a sexy lady, a hilarious Pollack, a too-smart-for-his-own-good nuclear scientist, and an atomic bomb for Hitler's personal toy box.
The movie is earnest enough, even though everything it does is completely ridiculous. It's an action movie, so I can forgive the shockingly low number of times the guys have to refill their machine guns while mowing down Germans. I can even forgive the fact that hordes of German soldiers appear to be allergic to taking cover, and instead charge ahead, death wishes in mind. It doesn't matter that at any given time it seems that the German army outnumbers the Americans 5-to-1, they continue to charge, and the Americans carry on cutting them down.
What really seems downright silly about this whole situation is that once the Americans get to the weapons facility in Haigerloch, there is less security there than at a TSA airport checkpoint. I understand that the budget shortcomings might have prevented them from hiring a few dozen beefy guards, but come on. At least make it appear a tad difficult for the guys to get all the way down to Hitler's most prized possession.
The acting and writing are beyond stale and the movie makes no attempts at promoting any wartime realism. It's hard to fault it too much though, since it was working from extremely limited resources. At the very best it's a way to pass the time. At its worst it's a parade of has-beens.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a Sony release. It's region free, comes in a standard Blu-ray keepcase, and is included with an UltraViolet Digital Copy code.
The inconsistency in a 'Company of Heroes' Blu-ray transfer is what ultimately leads to its lower score. The disparity of quality between the nighttime and daytime scenes is staggering. Even Sony's usual magic doesn't end up working the wonders one might expect. I suspect that the lacking quality has to do with the source's low-budget roots.
The 1080p picture looks nice when the movie opens on a well-lit, snow covered field. Detail is strong. Contrast is solid. Close-ups reveal facial features and two-day stubble on the weary soldiers. Mud, dirt, and CG blood all look real enough. This is where the presentation shines. When the sun is out it looks great.
However, the nighttime scenes are a different story. Blacks never come near to any shade considered inky. They waver in that gray nebulous area which becomes increasingly frustrating as the movie goes on. The shadows constantly crush detail, objects, and textures. Black areas are replete with digital noise and a bluish twinge. The movie just doesn't look good when the sun isn't out. Since the entire middle of the movie pretty much takes place in darkness it all ends up being pretty unsatisfying.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track packs some punch though. The action scenes, however scaled back they are because of budgetary reasons, still showcase some strong, engrossing gunplay. The entire soundfield is engaged during these firefights, which makes the movie's audio experience much more satisfying than the video.
The bass booms during explosions. Bullets whiz by in the front and rear channels. At times it feels like the movie's sound effects are mixed a little too loud compared to the rest of the movie, but it didn't bother me that much. There were a few times where I found dialogue hard, or impossible to hear. There is a noticeable volume difference between the volume and the sound effects. They sounded a little off to me.
However, none of that precludes the notion that 'Company of Heroes' sounds great for a low-budget war flick. I was surprised how expansive the sound stage was.
'Company of Heroes' left me feeling slightly amused and a little bored. It's a decent little DTV movie about World War II, but it isn't able to crawl out of the self-made trench of its miniscule budget. The movie's flagrant disregard for anything remotely resembling historical fact is a little disconcerting too. The video is only so-so, but the audio is surprisingly good. If you're interested, this is a rental at best.