Foyle’s War

Set 7

 

Foyle’s War Set 7 (Series 8)

Created for television by Anthony Horowitz

Production Design: Anna Rackard

Art Direction: Briana Hegarty

Costume Design: Joan Wadge

Photography: Gavin Struthers

Music: Daniel Giorgetti

Editing: Helen Chapman

Produced by Jill Green & Jeremy Gwilt

Directed by Stuart Orme & Andy Hay

2013

 

Featured Cast:

Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle: Michael Kitchen

Samantha Stewart Wainwright: Honeysuckle Weeks

 

The Eternity Ring

Written by Anthony Horowitz

Directed by Stuart Orme

Supporting cast:

Ellie Haddington

Tim McMullan

Ken Bones

Daniel Weyman

Stephen Boxer

Nicholas Jones

Kate Duchene

Jeremy Swift

Runtime: 91 min.

UK Airdate: March 24, 2013

 

The Cage

Written by David Kane

Directed by Stuart Orme

Supporting cast:

Rupert Vansittart

Tim McMullan

Ellie Haddington

Evelyn Way

Daniel Weyman

Jeremy Swift

Runtime: 89 min

UK Airdate: March 31, 2013

 

Sunflower

Written by Anthony Horowitz

Directed by Andy Hay

Supporting cast:

Rupert Vansittart

Tim McMullan

Tamzin Outhwaite

Lars Eidinger

Jodie Hay

Charles Aitken

Daniel Weyman

Jeremy Swift

Runtime: 93 min.

UK Airdate: April 7, 2013 

 

Production:

Television: Granada Television/ITV Productions

Video: Acorn Media

 

Video

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: BD50 + BD25

Feature Size: 14.94; 12.38; 15.28 GB

Bit rate: Low~Moderate (13~24 Mbps)

 

Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1

 

Subtitles: English SDH

 

Extras:

• Recap of Sets 1-6 (6 min)

• Introductions by Writer/Creator Anthony Horowitz (15 min)

• Origins, On the Set and more (27 min)

• Old Friends, New Faces (14:15 min)

• The Styling of Foyle’s War (27 min)

• Historical Facts, Visual Fictions (17:45 min)

• Photo gallery

 

Presentation:

Amaray Blu-ray case: BRD x 2

Street Date: September 24, 2013



Acorn Product Description:

An all-new 3-episode series is due out September 24, 2013. These three exciting new stories for FOYLE'S WAR will show a man working at the forefront of a changing, difficult and dangerous new world. The Second World War may be over, but Foyle's career goes on.

 

Overview [Wikipedia]:

Foyle's War is a British detective drama television series set during and shortly after World War II, created by screenwriter and author Anthony Horowitz, and commissioned by ITV after the long-running series Inspector Morse came to an end in 2000. It has been broadcast on ITV since 2002. It was axed in 2007 by the then director of programmes, Simon Shaps, but positive public demand and a number of complaints about the cancellation prompted ITV to revive the series after its sixth series proved to be a ratings success.


     

 

The series up to the present season was set during and after the Second World War in Hastings, Sussex, England, where Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) attempted to catch criminals who took advantage of the confusion the war has created. He was assisted by his driver Samantha "Sam" Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks) and Detective Sergeant Paul Milner (Anthony Howell). Foyle, a widower, is quiet, methodical, very sagacious, and scrupulously honest, yet he is frequently underestimated by his foes. Many of his cases concerned profiteering, the black market and murder. Foyle often came up against high-ranking officials in the British military or intelligence services who would prefer that he mind his own business, but he was and remains tenacious in seeking justice. The stories are largely self-contained. There are some running strands, mainly involving the career of Foyle's son Andrew (played by Julian Ovenden), a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force, or Foyle's continuing relationships with cameo characters.


     

 

The new series is as much a reboot as a continuation. The “war” of the title has always had a double meaning: the war in Europe against the Nazis and the war at home against those who would profit from it as well as others caught up in forces beyond their control. In the new season, the war in Europe is over, but Foyle is still fighting the good fight in the context of the cold war against the Soviet Union and all manner of espionage at home.

 

In both the UK and the US, the current DVD boxed sets are packaged such that UK broadcast series 4 and 5 are combined and sold as DVD series 4 (or "set 4" in the US). Accordingly, UK broadcast series 6 is sold as DVD series 5 in the UK and DVD set 5 in the US; UK broadcast series 7 is sold as DVD series/set 6; and UK broadcast series 8 is sold as DVD series/set 7. Thus, in both the UK and US, the DVD sets now reflect the US, rather than UK, broadcast series numbers. All series are also available on Blu-ray in Australia (Region Free), with 4 and 5 combined in the same way as in the US and the UK.


     

 

Critical Press:

“An enthralling new chapter” – The Observer (UK)

“One of the best mysteries on television” – The New York Times

“A triumph from start to finish” – The Wall Street Journal

“Like a gift from the gods.” – The New York Times


     

 

Synopses:

The Eternity Ring: 7

Fresh from a stay in America, Foyle encounters MI5 agents Hilda Pierce (Ellie Haddington) and Arthur Valentine (Tim McMullan,) who draw him into the hunt for a suspected Russian spy ring. As part of his investigation, Foyle reconnects with Sam, now working for a nuclear scientist and married to political candidate Adam Wainwright.

 

The Cage: 8

Looking into the deaths of several high-ranking Russian defectors, Foyle finds ties to the apparent suicide of an unidentified Russian man and the disappearance of a young woman. His search leads him to a government listening station that may not be what it appears.

 

Sunflower: 9

When an MI5 intelligence asset fears for his life, Foyle must protect the ex-Nazi from assassination attempts—and American authorities. Meanwhile, new MP Adam tries to help a farmer reclaim his land and uncovers information that could threaten his career.


     

 

Comment [LensViews]

With the action moved from a smallish seaside town and associated rural areas to primarily London (shot in Dublin), the look of the show has changed drastically. This season is shot in HD video rather than film and the result is glossier, less nostalgic. But the biggest difference is that the spaces are all larger yet seem to be relatively uninhabited. The effect - whether deliberate or not, I cannot say - is unsettling. There is the occasional passerby, at times oddly placed (note the lone man in a suit who walks across the frame from stage left as we take leave of the Wainwrights in front of the home, joltingly out of place, at the end of The Eternity Ring.) Then there is one of my favorite pet-peeves about period pieces: spotless cars, polished to a mirror finish. Even though shot in Ireland, half the vintage cars we see are right-hand drive, and one of them can be seen driving on the wrong side of the road (The Eternity Ring.)


     

 

These technicalities aside, there is the more salient question of cold war vs hot war. Each of the previous seasons of Foyle’s War were set during successive years of WWII. The war over, Foyle is now remanded to fight the new cold war against Stalin, the Soviets, spies and fellow travelers. This means there are no individually promoted murders to solve as such. It also means that motivation for the bad guys is limited to the political theatre in one way or another. So, except for the personalities of Foyle and Sam and their relationship there isn’t a whole lot to distinguish this new reboot of the series from your basic garden variety spy thrillers. There is this, however: Foyle was not a participant in the European war, only a detective at home; on the other hand, he is up to his elbows in the cold war. His new job brings greater personal danger because his adversaries are often fanatical about their missions with little if any guilt left over to modulate additional mayhem. (I don’t recall any resistance to arrest in the previous seasons. I can well foresee this will not be the case here.)


     

 

The previous seasons, set in and around the small town of Hastings, were alive with perpetrators and their idiosyncratic motivations, though generally touching on aspects of the war on the home front. The great majority of episodes managed to juggle two or more murders and often relate the circumstances of the one to the other. In their place, Horowitz and company enlarge their focus to MI5 and espionage on the one hand and narrow it to a more or less specific investigation per episode and the ongoing saga of Sam and her new husband on the other. The first episode, The Eternity Ring, for example, brings into focus the trials of returning Sergeant Frank Shaw, six years away at war, most of them in prison. Except to dramatize the difficulties of the returning soldier as he tries to make a life for himself and the family he left behind – an important and timely issue, to be sure – really goes nowhere except to flesh out the social context. As touching as it is, it adds nothing to the investigation at hand. Worse still, the episode is littered, I’m grieved to say, with all manner of clichés and dwells on the clue that leads us to the guilty party several times.


     

 

The remaining two episodes, having got the necessary establishing details out of the way in what amounts to a new pilot, are more satisfying as dramatic narratives. We no longer need to follow characters that are sideshows to the main line of inquiry. And, as in days of yore, apparently disconnected deaths and disappearances turn out to be connected. There is also considerably more action in this new series, though Foyle’s War remains true to its roots as studies in ethical dialectics.


     

 

Image: 9

Aside from the high-definition efforts put out by Icon in Australia, there are, to my knowledge, no legitimate Blu-ray editions of any season of Foyle’s War up to now. The Australian edition, by the way, while an improvement in image and sound, does not entirely make up for its Super 16 mm source. On the other hand, the Australian BD looks significantly better than the upscaled, DNR’d clips of the previous seasons in the Bonus Recap. This new season (“series” “set” whatever), shot in HD video, is an entirely new kettle of clocks and daggers.


     

 

There is a glossy, almost plastic look to the proceedings. Resolution and detail is very good, as is the naturalistic, if somewhat desaturated color and pleasing contrast. Transfer anomalies are of little concern. Mattes and special effects, hardly this series’ bread & butter, are neatly integrated, though generally apparent. The total run time of the main disc, with all three episodes, the recap, and Mr. Horowitz’ introductions, is some 294 minutes, twice that of many a movie on Blu-ray these days, necessitating lower bit rates (here in the mid-teens to low twenties.) Yet I found no disturbing compression artifacts.


     

 

Audio & Music: 7/7

Not only does Acorn’s Foyle’s War Set 7 boast the first-ever North American release of this series with a high-definition image, it also is the first season to record the show in 5.1 surround, a major environmental change for fans. We will just have to make the adjustment from mere stereo. It’s not so much of an adjustment as it turns out, since the surround channels are not put to vigorous use except to establish ambience, space and the occasional rush of things passing by. I found this a good thing as this series is not the stuff of car chases, shootouts and explosions. That said, the filmmakers do take advantage of the new format, viz., uncompressed surround audio. The final episode Sunflower, has more than its share of wartime effects as soldiers endure the bombing in the Ardennes. In The Cage there is a very effective use of music and effects that underscore an attempted prison escape.


     


On the other hand, the audio director seems to think that the speed of sound is about the same as for light, since the sound of an atomic bomb detonation from 5.6 miles away is heard almost instantly after the light of the blast. I can understand the reluctance to wait the full 27 seconds, but a small concession of perhaps 3 or 4 seconds would have been nice, and dramatically much more effective. Also, I couldn’t help notice that the sound of a car’s engine as heard from inside cars on different roads at different speeds is always dialed in at the same unconvincing level and quality.


The title music takes its cue from the previous seasons but adds a touch of the orient to suggest to mysteries behind the iron curtain. Dialogue is always clear, though not always attuned to the acoustic space the actors stand in. Optional SHD subtitles are available as required.


     

 

Extras: 6

The bonus features, all in HD, include a brief recap of the previous seasons (6 min) and separate 5-minute episode introductions by series creator Anthony Horowitz. These appear, sensibly enough, on the main disc along with all three of the 90-minute episodes in this set. Horowitz’ comments are worth our attention and should be watched prior to the episode, clarifying the historical mood for this period, which was, despite the victory over the Nazis, still pessimistic about the immediate future. The Recap is intended to be as much an ad for past editions of Foyle’s War as a recap of the series to date. I think it pretty much fails at both. There’s a great many clips from previous seasons that look pretty dreadful as someone was a little too aggressive preparing them for HD upgrade. As I mentioned earlier, the Australian Icon Blu-ray is significantly better, so don’t use these images as a guideline for what you could be missing if a proper Blu-ray was created from source materials.


     

 

Disc two contains four interesting behind-the-scenes, obsessively detailed production-related segments (totaling 86 minutes). Series Producer Jill Green, along with Anthony Horowitz and other important crew members cover the origins of the show and discuss aspects of the production design; Honeysuckle Weeks hosts a segment on the styling of the series (hair, makeup and costumes); in Old Friends & New Faces new and old cast members are interviewed: Ellie Haddington, Tim McMullan, Rupert Vansittart and Nicholas Jones who play Hilda Pierce [aka: Pearce], Arthur Valentine, Sir Alec and Sir William of MI5), and Honeysuckle Weeks and Daniel Weyman as Sam & Adam Wainwright; while Terry Charman of the Imperial War Museum, who has been historical advisor from the start, rationalizes historical facts and visual fictions.


     


I might add that, for all the detailed information shared by people who evidently know what there’re doing, I fear the same cannot be said for the crew that conducted the interviews, especially in the Origins segment: Lighting, camera set-up, color balances, changes of camera position, direction of respondent’s eyes (almost never to us, always to an assortment of silent interviewers to one side or the other.) The relentless music not far enough in the background of the otherwise absorbing “Styling” featurette was so obnoxious I had to mute the audio altogether and play it with subtitles. Very shabby. I took off two points for poor production values.


     

 

Recommendation: 8

In a most unusual move for any studio, let alone Acorn or its partner in crime, RJL Entertainment, the season represented on this Blu-ray edition will be more or less simultaneously aired on U.S television as well as available for streaming. PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery will show successive episodes on September 15, 22 & 29, while Acorn Streaming will do likewise starting each following day. The Blu-ray and DVD editions arrive at retailers on September 24. The advantage to the Blu-ray is as it always is: better picture & sound, as well as lots of bonus features - two hours in this case, making up for its relative lack on all previous DVD editions.


     

 

Few will complain about the improved image and sound quality over previous seasons, yet I found the HD video picture a little disconcerting: what it gains in detail it loses in nostalgic value. As for the dramatic substance of the new Foyle’s War, once the opening episode, with its need to connect the old with the new and to point up Foyle’s irritation at being imposed upon to the point of extortion when he would rather go fishing, is out of the way, the series rolls into high gear with good mysteries, familiar faces and manners in new contexts and a brisker pace.

 

Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

September 29, 2013


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