The Walker (2007)

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Released 19-Nov-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery Theatrical Trailer-(02:34) Smart People : 2.35:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Theatrical Trailer-(02:46) Paris : 2.35:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 103:42
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:27) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Paul Schrader


Studio
Distributor

Icon Entertainment
Starring
Woody Harrelson

Kristin Scott Thomas

Lauren Bacall

Ned Beatty

Moritz Bleibtreu
Mary Beth Hurt

Lily Tomlin
Case ?
RPI ? Music Anne Dudley



Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Dialogue behind opening credits.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   

"In the end , all you have is your breeding. It's what separates 'them from 'us'."
                                                                                                                  Nathalie Van Miter (Lauren Bacall)
"Mah great-grandfather got rich off slavery. When the Yankees took that away, mah grandfather made his money from t'baccah.
Ah don' have any breedin'."
                                                                                                                    Carter Page III (Woody Harrelson


    Are you tired of movies that substitute car chases for "thrills" and "suspense", and shopping lists of incidents masquerading as a plot? Are you hungry for just a taste of the brilliant dialogue exchanges of All About Eve? Look no further! Director/writer Paul Schrader's 2007 release The Walker may be just the answer to your problems. The man who has given us, amongst others,  American Gigolo (1979) and  Auto Focus (2002) has delivered a smart, sophisticated, literate, character driven  murder mystery cum psychological drama set in Washington D.C., and while this may not be to everyone's taste, and not in the rare stratosphere of Joseph L. Mankiewicz's incomparable Eve, there is plenty here to be savoured and relished as the intricacies of Schrader's plot unwind to reveal, at its centre, the answer to a murder mystery and the fragile psychology of his central character. In this complex  role, Woody Harrelson reveals himself to be an actor of versatility, depth and considerable sensitivity.

    Behind the opening credits the camera slowly pans around the luxuriously panelled walls of a room, as we hear sophisticated voices gossipping off camera. There are four voices, three female and one male. The camera comes to rest on the surface of the card table, then tilts up to the owner of the male voice. Carter (Car) Page III (Woody Harrelson) is what is disparagingly described as "a walker", an unthreatening well-bred escort, found on a wealthy woman's arm at social functions or the opera when the woman's powerful husband is "unavailable". Carter's breeding is not in doubt, being fourth generation money, the son of a deceased senator, cultured and a child of high society. He is "unthreatening" because he is gay. An immaculately double-breasted, and toupeed male butterfly, "Car" has his weekly game of canasta and b****iness with his female friends at The Hargreave, an exclusive Washington club. Abigail (Lily Tomlin) is the wife of powerful politician Jack Delorean (Ned Beatty), Lynn (Kristin Scott Thomas) the wife of senator Larry Lockner (Willem Dafoe) and Nathalie Van Miter (Lauren Bacall), the aged "queen" of the group. Car's best friend in this group is Lynn, whom he chauffeur's, albeit reluctantly, to her regular trysts with her lover, lobbyist Robbie Kononsberg (Steven Hartley), who has been a friend of Car's for twenty years. Car himself is not loveless, being in a relatively uncommitted relationship with photographer Emek Yoglu (Moritz Bleibtreu), who has hopes that his sado-masochistic portraits of naked men will, with Car's contacts, soon gain a gallery showing.

    Having driven Lynne to one of her regular meetings with Robbie, Carter has settled himself in his car, paperback novel in hand, to fill the waiting time. Unexpectedly Lynne emerges from the apartment building, teeters down the steps from her lover's flat and into the front seat beside the waiting Carter. The distressed Lynne tells Car that Robbie is dead, stabbed,  and assures him that she was not responsible. Just as Car is about to phone the police Lynne stops him, saying : "It would destroy Larry. It would destroy me."  Is Lynne telling Carter the truth, or is she abusing his friendship? The ever loyal Car drives Lynne back to her home, then returns to the scene of the murder, enters the building and removes any sign of Lynne's presence. As he is leaving the building a neighbour sees him and nods a greeting. Car sighs, realising he must now report the murder, phones the police, then settles down on the stoop to await their arrival. Before long Car becomes the prime suspect in the murder case, his friends abandon him, Lynne "leaves town" and he loses his one day a week real estate position. His sole support comes from Emek, who assists in Car's attempts to unravel the web of power and politics that is woven around the murder.

    Schrader's screenplay begins very well indeed, immersing us in the brittle social whirl of Washington society, and the tentative alternative lifestyle of Carter Page. The murder and the drama of the characters involved is totally engrossing, and only when the political aspects of the story threaten to overwhelm our involvement with Carter's predicament does some impetus become lost. Schrader has stated that he wanted to make a film about hypocrisy, and that he chose Washington because it was the most hypocritical city of all. That may well be the case, but, for me at least, keeping track of the political references and wheeling and dealing blunted the force of the main character driven narrative. Ironically, in the opening card game scene, Schrader has Carter cautioning his fellow gossips, "no politics", that they must "float above" politics and "the war", their sole concern being "shit control". Nevertheless, despite some loss of dramatic impact, the film has finely drawn characters, at times with extremely delicate strokes, and a generous peppering of acerbic and entertaining dialogue, containing some of the most memorable lines heard in a film for a while. The selfish Lynne, that self-preoccupation only hinted at by one disapproving cloud on Kristin Scott Thomas's face, disparages Carter for always playing the gentleman and being "polite" even when a murder charge is looming. Carter replies : "It was my mother's answer to chaos. Now it's mine." Later Carter is cautioned for being naive: "I'm not naive. I'm superficial," he replies.

    Central to the film is the performance of Woody Harrelson, he of  Natural Born Killers and TV's Cheers, as the effete, Truman Capote-like Carter. Some critics have blasted his performance, while other have praised him. I subscribe to the second belief. Harrelson creates a character just as outrageous as the two Capotes we have recently seen on the screen - Toby Jones being far superior to Philip Seymour Hoffman - but Harrelson's gaily southern gentleman has the added dimension of being handsome and physically attractive. The screenplay never explores the sexuality of Carter - we do see him openly gay, tenderly embracing and passionately kissing Emek - but there are other suggestions under the surface here. His tentative touching of his female friend's hand, the lingering look as Kristin Scott Thomas walks away from him. I am not suggesting that the character wasn't gay, or even bi-sexual - I've always supported the definition "an optimistic homosexual" - but Harrelson does convey an underlying sadness at what he has missed in his life, akin to the bitterness he feels towards his dead father. The actor's much debated accent is fine, with just a touch of self parody which is part of the overall character. This is a journey of awareness that Carter Page is on, not of self-awareness but of the awareness of others and of the society around him. He was always aware that he himself was an outsider, an outsider to his father and then to society as a whole, but at the opening of the film Carter Page is secure in his elite social circle, a circle which appears to value and embrace him. Woody Harrelson draws a picture of a brave man, brave enough in this crisis to stand relatively alone, while coming to realise that in reality he has always been alone.

    Harrelson, virtually never off screen, receives excellent support  from Moritz Bleibtreu, strong, warm and compassionate as the photographer lover, and from the icily beautiful Kristin Scott Thomas - "exposed" in seeringly sharp close-ups. Fine also are a group of great actors in all too brief roles, though Lauren Bacall , as spell-binding and vital as ever, has more screen time than others. The mega-talented Lily Tomlin is excellent, as is Ned Beatty as her husband, reunited in marriage more than thirty years after Nashville (1975). Sadly Willem Dafoe is barely on-screen in his cameo-like role.

    With London doubling for Washington, the film is beautifully photographed, with frequent use of languid pans and symmetrical set-ups. There is a composed, refined feel to much of the film, very fitting for the conservative facade of Washington life depicted in the film. The method of the presentation of the main title at the close of the action is a perfect final touch. Technically the film is superb, with excellent widescreen photography under the direction of Chris Seager (Archangel), and an arresting musical score by Anne Dudley (Black Book). The use of colour is very interesting, although not always successful. Generally a softer, more subtle palette is used, resulting in an image that ranges from soft and attractive to a jarring saturation with orange. This latter results in skin tones that are extremely coppery, which is quite flattering to the debonair Carter, but much less so for the older female members of the cast. I assume that what we get on the disc is what was intended by the director, but, if so, I cannot agree with his choice. In some scenes associated with the character of the photographer/lover there are the occasional bold bursts of primary colour, and this works well being associated with his more vital and natural personality compared to the constraints of Carter's lifestyle.

    This is a film for grown-ups that needs to be listened to intently. The dialogue is extremely clever and heavily nuanced, with a second viewing revealing much more than was apparent initially. A distinguished cast deliver intelligent performances that on closer examination serve up additional pleasures. Woody Harrelson is astonishingly good in a difficult role that could easily have become parody. Instead he creates a complex outsider who has always questioned his own self-worth, and through these experiences learns more about himself and the people in this specialised world that has been his own creation.
 

 

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Transfer Quality

Video

         
    The transfer  is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
    The image is very clear, smooth and sharp.
    Shadow detail is excellent and there is no low level noise.
    The colour is deliberately muted and controlled for overall effect, the aim, I assume, to present an artistic, strongly controlled image, reflecting the control of this rigid society. The occasional splash of colour, as in Carter's ties, is striking, as are the bold primary splashes in scenes involving the photographer/lover who is alien to those who constitute the social and political elite.
    Skin tones become problematic with this chosen palette, serving some characters better than others.
  
    
    There were no MPEG artefacts seen, with a complete absence of aliasing.

    There are no subtitles.
    The disc is dual-layered, with the invisible change occurring at 61:27.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two audio streams. The film was viewed in its entirety listening to the Dolby Digital 5.1 stream encoded at 448 Kbps. The Dolby Digital 2.0 stream, encoded at 224 Kbps was sampled and found to be more than acceptable but considerably lacking in depth and without the impressive bass of the six channel stream.
    
    Perhaps surprisingly for a dialogue driven film, the audio is most impressive.
    The dialogue was crystal clear and listening to these smart, deviously complex people was a joy. There are no sync problems.
    The dialogue was centred, with just the occasional use of direction for doors slamming, cars moving off screen and the like.
    The surrounds were used quite extensively for ambient sounds, mainly of the social world swirling around the central character.
    There is very occasionally some background noise, due to the live, location sound recording. This is very slight and in no way distracting.
    There were no drop-outs.
  
    The original score by Anne Dudley (Black Book) is excellent, beautifully capturing the lifestyles and psychology of the characters and events. It is all beautifully reproduced, with extensive use of the surrounds, and exceptional use of the LFX channel creating a pounding and pulsating bass to accentuate the occasional burst of action on the screen, as in the footchase around 83:00.
    
    

    

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

   

 

Continuing what appears to be an ever increasing practice with local versions, there is disappointingly nothing extra on this, what is considered non "event", release except for two trailers of other films.

Main Menu:
A still with no audio.
Options presented are :
        Play Movie
        Scene Selection : Sixteen thumbnails on four screens. No audio.
        Audio Selection : A still, no audio with the two options : Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby Digital 2.0
        Special Features : A separate screen, a still and no audio. On offer are two unrelated trailers as below.
                                                           
Theatrical Trailers : Both are presented in the ratio of 2.35:1 and are 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded audio.
    Smart People (02:34)
    Paris (02:46)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

It seems that whoever is responsible for these decisions for region 4 releases considers "extras" unnecessary on movies which are not "blockbusters". Surely the individuals who constitute the audiences for these more specialised films are exactly the ones who would appreciate some insight into the creative process.

The Region 4 release misses out on :
    * Feature Audio Commentary by writer/director Paul Schrader.
    * Featurette : Behind the Scenes : The Making of Walker.
    * Theatrical Trailer
    * Photo Gallery 
   
The Region 1 release misses out on the two trailers of films which have no connection to The Walker.  
The  local release is upcoming for $14.92, and as such is an excellent buy, with a nice transfer and very good sound. Why couldn't we have had the extras?

Summary

    Definitely a film for grown ups.Not because it is "explicit" in any way - except the glimpses of the SM photographs - but because depicted here are adults with adult concerns - with nary a teen in sight. Paul Schrader bitingly dissects the hypocritical, corrupt world of his central character as he attempts to clear himself of the suspicion of murder. This is an engrossing and stimulating film, one to mull over the next day, and while you are watching it there is the truly remarkable performance of Woody Harrelson. This is one to put on your list.
    

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Monday, September 01, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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