Blu-ray Review: Blow Out

Jack driving

While John Travolta may still be best-known for roles in Saturday Night Fever and Grease back in the 1970s, his career underwent an unlikely transformation less than two decades later. Largely thanks to Quentin Tarantino casting him in Pulp Fiction, he found himself being offered a number of more action orientated parts. However, this didn’t come as a complete surprise because even back in 1981 he was playing a more muscular character in Blow Out.

Jack (Travolta), a sound technician, is out one night trying to capture some new effects for a film he’s working on when he witnesses a car crash into the water. He leaps into action and saves the female passenger (Nancy Allen) but another man dies. Much to his surprise, it turns out that a prospective presidential candidate was driving and his team is trying to cover up the presence of a woman. When Jack checks his recording, he discovers that a shot was fired; but will anyone believe him?

Blow Out is a captivating mystery which plays with political espionage and police corruption to create a tense and entertaining experience. It’s undoubtedly one of Brian De Palma’s best films and benefits greatly from some great pacing and brilliant cinematography from Vilmos Zsigmond. John Lithgow, as always, is great value and Travolta’s slightly off-kilter performance is perfect for the material. Blow Out is a powerful thriller which takes on the establishment.

Special features:

  • Restored digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Brian De Palma, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Hour-long interview with De Palma, conducted by filmmaker Noah Baumbach in 2010
  • Interview with actor Nancy Allen from 2011
  • De Palma’s 1967 feature Murder à la Mod
  • Interview from 2010 with cameraman Garrett Brown on the Steadicam shots featured in the film within the film
  • On-set photos by photographer Louis Goldman
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Michael Sragow and, for the Blu-ray edition, Pauline Kael’s original New Yorker review

Blow Out is released on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection on 2 August.

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