In the Electric Mist (Blu-ray) (2009)

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Released 4-May-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery Alternative Version-US Cut & Director's Cut
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Madman Propaganda
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 117:04
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Bertrand Tavernier
Studio
Distributor
Ithaca Pictures
Madman Entertainment
Starring Tommy Lee Jones
John Goodman
Peter Sarsgaard
Kelly Macdonald
Mary Steenburgen
Justina Machado
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $49.95 Music Marco Beltrami


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The novels of James Lee Burke about detective Dave Robicheaux, set in New Iberia, Louisiana, have been hugely popular for a number of years. Robicheaux is not an easy man; a reformed alcoholic, prone to violence and rages, with a set of values that belong to an earlier period of time, much of the interest in the books centres on Robicheaux working through his interior demons while solving crimes in a society that sometimes sickens him. The books are narrated in the first person, with an ongoing internal dialogue which would make them difficult to film.

     In the Electric Mist is based upon the 1992 novel In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead. Detective Dave Robicheaux (Tommy Lee Jones) is investigating a series of murders and mutilations of young women when he pulls over a drunk driver. The driver is Elrod Sykes (Peter Sarsgaard), a prominent actor who is in town making a film partly financed by gangster Julie “Baby Feet” Balboni (John Goodman) and sugar mill owner Twinky LeMoyne (Ned Beaty). Sykes tells Robicheaux that while filming a scene they discovered the chained, decomposed body of a Negro man and agrees to take him there. It seems that this body is an incident from Robicheaux’s past: when he was 17 he witnessed the shooting murder of a chained Negro man but the body disappeared and no-one had believed him.

     As Robicheaux continues his investigation, aided by FBI agent Rosie Gomez (Justina Machado), who has an interest in Balboni, the present and the past collide; not just the events of the present murders and the murder 40 years earlier, but the events of the Civil War between the states when Robicheaux starts to have visions of and conversations with General John Bell Hood (Levon Helm), a general who had led a ragtag band of Confederate soldiers in the area against overwhelming Union forces in the last days of the war. Both men long for a time when honour was an option for good men in dealing with present dangers and difficulties. But as Robicheaux continues to dig into both past and present crimes, he unleashes an evil that threatens not only his life but his family’s existence and all he holds dear.

     Sometimes, in director’s cuts, directors add scenes that were cut from the theatrical release, or even occasionally trim them! However, it is essentially the same film. That is not the case with In the Electric Mist where the director’s cut substantially alters the film. The place and pacing of scenes is changed, the focus is changed and the film is 15 minutes longer. I watched the longer version before the US producer’s cut.

     The director’s version is a stunning film; moody, atmospheric, thoughtful and very satisfying. It is not surprising that French director Bertrand Tavernier brings European pacing, thoughtfulness and a sense of mystery to the project. It is not just about the action but the blending of conversations and clues, past and present, as Robicheaux gradually puts the pieces together and does not like what he finds. While slower paced, the film is never dull and, unusual for a crime thriller (which it is), it takes the time to raise issues about the nature of society, evil and the juxtaposition of the past and the present. Robicheaux, at one point, is accused of not letting go of the past; his response is that the past must be dealt with, or society will never change.

     The US Producer’s cut, on the other hand, is more an action thriller than a mystery. There is much less of the musings about good and evil in society, far less of Robicheaux’s conversations with General Hood (so basically the three time frames are reduced to two) and the character of Balboni is far less developed, undermining the fine performance of Goodman. It is also far less subtle. The voiceover details have changed and the first shot in this version is Robicheaux in voiceover stating he was an alcoholic. This version also adds scenes that alert us that something is about to happen. For example, before one shooting we get two inserts of a car pulling up, and a window winding down. In the director’s cut we get no such warning and the shots, when they come, are a total shock. The US cut also has a much neater but tacky ending.

     In either cut, Tommy Lee Jones is superb; he is a flawed, dangerous man, capable of extreme violence and bending the law to achieve his ends. But in Jones’ capable hands Dave Robicheaux is far more than a thug; he is a man with a sense of duty, a conscience, a family man who has both a sense of time passing and of the past. John Goodman is also excellent; in fact, the acting throughout the parts is very good. Both cuts also share the beautiful cinematography by Bruno de Keyzer, highlighting the Louisiana swamps and countryside as well as Katrina ravaged New Orleans, and the haunting, atmospheric score by Marco Beltrami.

     Does this adaptation of the novel deserve to be seen? Absolutely; the director’s cut is a superb film, beautiful, haunting and atmospheric. I would have loved to have seen this director’s cut in the cinema so we can be very thankful that we get this opportunity to see it on Blu-ray. Don’t miss out.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    In the Electric Mist is presented in a ratio of 2.35:1 which is the original ratio. It has crystal clarity; the greens of the countryside, the greys of the swamp, the white and yellow of the sunsets are all faithfully rendered. Blacks were exceptional, but some shadow detail was a bit murky. Skin tones are natural. Every detail of Tommy Lee Jones’ craggy face is lovingly and faithfully reproduced. There are no subtitles.

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

Audio

     Audio is English Dolby Digital 5.1 for the US release and Dolby Digital 2.0 (surround encoded) for the Director’s cut. In truth, I did not hear a lot of difference although the 5.1 track is recorded at a lower level which required an adjustment to my usual volume level. This is a film with a lot of dialogue, no car chases and only an occasional gunshot. The surrounds were used constantly giving an enveloping experience and my sub did support the music. Some of the southern accents were hard to understand, made more difficult by the lack of any subtitles. Otherwise, there is nothing to complain about with either track. Lip Synchronisation is perfect.

     The score included orchestral pieces and southern guitar and songs. It provided great support for the mood of the film.

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

Extras

The real extra on the disc is the two versions of the film, selected from the main menu. From the extras menu the following can be selected:

Theatrical Trailer (2:07)

Madman Propaganda

Included is Balibo (2:31), The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2:00), Last Ride (1:55) and My Year Without Sex (2:08).

R4 vs R1

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

As mentioned there are two cuts of the film on BR and SD.

One SD is a Region 1 extra-less Producer’s Cut (102 minutes); the second a Region 2 Director’s Cut (117 minutes) released in France by director Tavernier. This Region 2 SD release has an audio commentary by Tavernier on disc 1 plus a second disc of extras:

The BRs continue this theme. The US Region A BR has the Producer’s Cut and no extras. The French Region B BR has the Director’s Cut, the Making Of, The Louisiana Stories feature, the deleted scenes and music plus an Interview with blues guitarist George “Buddy” Guy and director Bertrand Tavernier (34:29) but not the audio commentary. Both versions have DTS HD MA audio as options.

This is a tough call. Here in Australia from Madman we are the only region so far to get the opportunity to have both cuts of the film but miss out on the extras. Personally, while I like quality extras, the film itself is why we get the BR, so I’d go with our Australian Region B release. Maybe a draw?

Summary

    We may have missed out on In the Electric Mist in theatres but at least we can now see the film as the director wanted it. In the Electric Mist is a marvellous, moody, atmospheric film with a top cast, wonderful cinematography, a good score and something to say. In this region we are very fortunate to get both versions of the film on one BR, both with fabulous video and audio. If only we had the extras from the French SD, but I suppose one can not have everything!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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