Friday, March 4, 2011

Glorious 39 Blu-ray Review

When I first heard of this movie I wanted to see it just for the cast alone. Glorious 39 has Bill Nighy, Julie Christie, Christopher Lee, Jeremy Northam, David Tennant, and that’s a pretty good combination.  Plus, it was marketed as a thriller that takes place right before World War II, so between the two I wanted to review this.  While I did get to see this excellent cast do their parts as well as they could, I was let down by the rest of the movie.

Film (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)

The film is set not long after World War I and right before Germany invaded Poland and at this point of time, most Britons had little interest in participating in another world wide war.  A policy of appeasement was enacted between England and Germany and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain famously signed the Munich Agreement with Hitler which formally made appeasement official policy.  That act made him a hero to many in England who wanted to avoid another conflict at all costs.  In the movie, Sir Alexander Keyes (Bill Nighy) is a man of influence within the British Government despite his weak health.  His son Ralph (Eddie Redmayne) followed his father career path and now works in the government while his adopted daughter Anne (Ramola Garai) is an actress.

The Keyes family is part of the upperclass British nobility that has a huge mansion, servants, and entertains often.  When a lavish birthday party for Alexander is thrown, a random selection of guests are invited and it isn’t long before a heated discussion erupts about the appeasement of Germany.  One of the Members of Parliament named Hector Haldane (David Tennant) argues that Churchill should lead the nation and that war was inevitable.  His fiery rhetoric amuses another guest named Balcombe (Jeremy Northam) who listens politely but looks at him in a rather sinister way.

After the party, while chasing her cat, Anne discovers some unknown items hidden in a shed including some old foxtrot records which she brings into the house so they can listen to them.  They soon discover that instead of music on the records, they are actually recordings of various meetings.  Anne’s brother Ralph makes light of it all and throws the record out the window and it’s decided that the family will ask their party guest Balcombe to return to pick up the stuff that Alexander has been hiding for him.  It isn’t long after that that people that vocally oppose the appeasement faction start getting killed.  Anne finds herself right in the middle of it all and starts to unravel family and state secrets that put her  and her friends in grave danger.  She soon discovers that she doesn’t know who she can trust.

This movie was a let down for me.  Despite the impressive cast and interesting time period, the pace of the movie is glacial and ultimately, none of it really matters with an ending that works against the movie and makes you wonder who could have thought that it would have worked.  While I’m sure that there may have historically been some censuring of anti-appeasement efforts, I find it highly unlikely that they were killed outright with no attempts at subtlety.  The movie basically boils down to an aristocratic society supporting Hitler in an attempt to keep the lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to.

Video (3 out of 5 stars)

The 1080p transfer (2.35:1) has an inconsistent quality that distracts the viewer.  In outside shots, the image is sharp, detailed, and colors are vivid.  Other scenes in dark locales become murky and filled with noise and brings down the experience.  Flesh tones and black levels are are also inconsistent as they range from excellent to not so good.  There is grain present but it just adds a film look to it but thankfully, it hasn’t all been scrubbed clean by DNR.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix fares better than the video quality,  The dialogue is sharp and clear, which is a good thing for a movie of this type.  There were some nice immersive moments like the start of the film with it’s chase through the ruins and later towards the end of the movie when the environment itself seemed to close around Anne.  This isn’t a flashy mix but it it a suitable lossless mix for this kind of movie.

Special Features (1 out of 5 stars)

I was disappointed in the extras given as they are all EPK quality and don’t really offer anything to enhance or help you understand the movie any better.  They are all in standard definition on top of that so that doesn’t help.
  • Interviews – A talk with all of the major cast members and the director Poliakoff too.  As much as I liked seeing some of the actors talk, none of it was that interesting or revealing.
  • Behind the Scenes –  When they say behind the scenes, they really mean behind the scenes.  We get to watch the cast get their makeup and hair retouched while they wait for a shot to be filmed.  Not interesting at all.
  • Trailer

Final Thoughts (3 out of 5 stars)

This should have been a better movie with the cast involved in this.  Instead, it seems like a half baked television two part miniseries and honestly, it probably would have worked a lot better on television.  The cast is game, but the director and the script let them down.  A counter-productive ending that made no sense in context to the story was the final straw for me.

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