The video looks very nice, and works with its muted color palette effectively. Given that much of the scenes are bathed in an overcast and desolate look - to match the mood of many of the events, or simply of interior locations - it doesn't jump out as an overtly dramatic transfer, but it still looks sharp. Detail is well-defined, black levels look solid, and there are no overt compression artifacts. Overall it's a solid 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer providing the film with an impressively appropriate presentation.
As a dramatic film, the soundtrack doesn't receive a very robust workout, but the audio did sound adequately spaced. Again, this is not the vehicle for acrobatic audio mixing, but it holds up well. Perhaps the best example of surround presence is the quite beautiful music for the end titles. One thing I will note is that for some reason the default audio option is not the best selection. It defaults to 5.1 Dolby Digital, but you will need to go into the setup menu to select the 5.1 Dolby HD option. This HD option does bring some noticeable separation and brilliance to the mix, again most noticeable during the isolated music cues.
The extras included with the film are a bit of a letdown on some major levels. It's not that we aren't treated to "stuff", because we are. But that stuff seems underwhelming. On a technical level, it's all standard definition (and I would still love to know why current films insist on shooting professional bonus material without hi-def). And if ever there was a movie that could do with a commentary track or two, it would be this one. But instead we're left with some more token behind-the-scenes tracks and standard filler.
The highlight of the bunch is a set of deleted scenes. In this instance, deleted scenes actually enhance the film. Granted they were cut for good reason, as already The Reader is pushing its ability to maintain pace for two hours. But the deleted scenes offer some additional glimpses into the characters that are rewarding for supplemental viewing. At over 41 minutes in total, the deleted material either reveals new scenes and situations or extends sections of the film.
The rest of the bonus materials are standard fare. In addition to the trailer, there is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film that is interesting, if a tad generic. Another shows a conversation with the director, Stephen Daldry, and the young lead actor about casting a relative unknown in a demanding dramatic role. A feature with Kate Winslet shows the time-intensive task of aging her for the different periods throughout the film. Another short feature looks at the surprisingly young film composer who provided the score. And finally a short segment interviews one of the crew working on the film, who actually dealt with some of the film's cultural baggage while growing up in, and eventually leaving, post-Nazi Germany.