Homesman, The (Blu-ray) (2014)
Featurette-Shooting the Film
Featurette-Beyond the Western
Featurette-The Homesman at Cannes
|Year Of Production||2014|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||
Tommy Lee Jones
Tommy Lee Jones
Wesley A. Oliver
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||No|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Recent movies and TV shows have taught us nothing if not that the Pioneer life and the Wild West was a bleak and heartless place. If it wasn't for roaming gunmen, savage Indians then crooked businessmen would take our very last dollar. Shows like Deadwood and Hell on Wheels presented a bleak view of the West and movies like Unforgiven forever put an end to the romantic vision of the frontier. Indeed, it was a running joke of Seth McFarlane's One Million Ways to Die in the West that the West was a horrible place to live.
The Homesman, produced by Luc Besson and directed by Tommy Lee Jones, is a stark and well crafted film depicting a little-known story of the early West. Hilary Swank plays Mary Bee Cuddy, a teacher from New York who comes to live in Nebraska in the early 1850s, prior to the Civil War, but moves to an isolated community to farm the land. It is a harsh and unforgiving landscape which has taken its toll on three of the local women. One has been driven mad by the death of her children from diphtheria (Grace Gummer - daughter of Meryl Streep), another killed her own child (Miranda Otto), and a third, a Scandinavian woman who speaks no English, has been sexually abused by her husband in search of offspring.
When the local preacher (John Lithgow) calls for volunteers to take the women to be cared for in Iowa there are only a few who put their hands forward and Cuddy is the lucky winner! She plans to pack the women into a covered wagon which resembles a prison van and begin the journey. Before setting off she meets with George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) a good for nothing claim jumper who is about to be hanged for his sins and convinces him to accompany her on the journey, promising money when the women are delivered.
The trip proved to be more difficult than either could have imagined. The conditions are harsh and cold. There are threats from Indians, drifters as well as a general lack of human concern for the women. The women are seriously disturbed, none able to speak or respond to questions. They must be looked after for the whole journey. Whilst Cuddy is well equipped, both with her skills and her piety, to carry out the task Briggs is only in it for the money. Or so it seems…
Cuddy has own problems. She has established herself successfully in the harsh environment but is desperately lonely and seeking a male partner to ease the loneliness. She has limited success being described on more than one occasion as "bossy" and "plainer than an old tin pail". Whilst Swank is no plain Jane she does a good job of suppressing her naturally beautiful features.
The Homesman is no joyous celebration of the West. People die, usually without dignity, and the path to redemption is littered with failure. Both Briggs and Cuddy have their own journeys and both succeed and fail in varying measures.
Tommy Lee Jones directs the film with one eye on a modern feminist take on the West and another on an old style western with visions of vast empty plains and rough hewn characters. There are also some tonally interesting decisions as Tommy Lee Jones character is allowed some humour. In many ways it is a close kin to Meek's Cutoff in capturing the existential emptiness of the wide open spaces.
The Homesman was shot on a combination of 35mm film and high-definition digital video. In both respects it is a good-looking film albeit with the environment stripped back to a striking simplicity.
Cinematographer Rodrigo Pieto is one of the finest cinematographers working today. His ability to achieve diverse looks is evident in the shifts between Wolf of Wall Street, Babel, Argo and his Oscar winning work on Brokeback Mountain.
There are vast vistas on offer underneath foreboding skies.
There is a good level of detail in the image with every crag and look in Jones's face presented in its ragged glory. The texture of the costumes is also well evident.
There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired.
The Homesman carries a DTS-HD 5.1 English language soundtrack.
It is excellent throughout.
The dialogue can for the most part be heard clearly. Where it cannot is not due to a fault on the Blu-ray but rather a traditional Wild West mumble and accent. Tommy Lee Jones is perhaps the most difficult to hear. He directed the film so must have been happy with the presentation.
The surround sound is used effectively to convey the emptiness of the landscape. This is further complemented by the excellent score by experienced composer Marco Beltrami which contains string sounds mimicking the wind passing over the plains.
|Surround Channel Use|
A lengthy and interesting look at the film. The main players talk about their characters and the scriptwriters talk about their challenges in adapting the novel for screen. An interesting point is where they recognize that the key element was to allow space for the extended visuals that are essential to the film.
Another really excellent guide to the shooting of the film. Director Tommy Lee Jones explains his vision for the film but there is a lot of input from production designers and the costume designer.There is, as with the other featurette, a lot of on set material.
A look at the genre of westerns and how this film fits within and outside those boundaries.
A decent length Q&A session from Cannes where the producer Luc Besson and Director and key cast members talk about their involvement in the project. Worth a watch.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region A Blu-ray is similarly detailed although we have the Cannes extra. Buy local.
The Homesman is a dour experience at times but it is also a moving and well acted piece. It barely made a ripple at the box office which is a pity but hopefully it will get more joy on home video. An excellent Blu-ray with some useful extras.
|DVD||Cambridge Audio 752BD All Region Blu-ray, using HDMI output|
|Display||JVC DLX 700 with 4K e-shift on 140" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Pioneer SC -LX 78K 9.2 Channel|
|Speakers||Aaron ATS-5 7.1|