Incendiary (2008)

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Released 4-May-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation-Fake film damage over still graphic, with score's theme.
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Director : Sharon Maguire (20:56)
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Producer : Anand Tucker (6:41)
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Producer : Andy Paterson (15:38)
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Author : Chris Cleave (22:34)
Interviews-Cast-Michelle Williams (6:48)
Interviews-Cast-Ewan McGregor (9:15)
Interviews-Cast-Matthew MacFadyen (6:14)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 95:57
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (73:26) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sharon Maguire
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Michelle Williams
Ewan McGregor
Matthew MacFadyen
Nicholas Gleaves
Sidney Johnston
Usman Khokhar
Sasha Behar
Edward Hughes
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $19.95 Music Barrington Pheloung
Shigeru Umebayashi


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     Incendiary is a movie that arrives, albeit belatedly, with a considerable amount of baggage. Based on Chris Cleave's novel inspired by the events of September 11, 2001, the book was published on the same 2005 day as London suffered a bomb attack. At the same time as playing a young wife and mother whose marriage has deteriorated, the star, Michelle Williams, had experienced the break-up of her marriage to Heath Ledger. Then the film was released and Heath Ledger's life ended so sadly - echoing the death of the husband in Incendiary. Unfortunately all this drama surrounding the film does not lead to a convincing or satisfactory drama on the screen. Incendiary is a bomb of a movie.

     Michelle Williams plays, and plays very well, a young wife and mother living in London's East End. Love has gone from her marriage to her moody husband (Nicholas Greaves), who works in a bomb squad with Terrence Butcher (Matthew MacFadyen) who harbours unrequited love for his colleague's wife. The young woman's love is lavished on her four-year old son, beautifully portrayed by Sidney Johnston. So much screen time is devoted to this mother/son relationship that we know that "something bad" is going to happen to the boy. This rather pathetic family is bound by one thing, a shared common religion - The Arsenal football team. At the local pub the young woman meets her more affluent and handsome neighbour, Jasper Black (Ewan McGregor), and a torrid fling is flung. Ewan and Michelle get generously naked in a very hot sex scene, while hubby and son are "at the game". The TV is on in the background as the naked couple "couple". At the climactic moment, or thereabouts, there is a huge explosion on the TV. Terrorism at the football stadium! The young wife and mother loses both husband and son and is wracked with guilt for her badly timed infidelity.

     Then the script gets really messy. Handsome neighbour Jasper is a reporter and he embarks on a detective job to unearth those responsible for the bomb attack. This leads Jasper to Terrence, who is fantasising sexual getaways in his caravan with Michelle, while she in turn is busy musing over the meaning of Hitler, the Great Fire of London and the terrorism of Osama Bin Laden. She, fantasising that her son is still alive, is driven to the brink of suicide, literally. To exorcise her demons she begins writing letters to Osama. From there we tediously trudge toward a resolution that any filmgoer worth his or her salt has seen coming a mile off - although the maudlin voice-overs from Michelle are beyond anticipation. Also, somewhere in there, is a plot strand in which Michelle tracks down the wife of the bomber and then begins to stalk his adolescent son.

     Despite the gravity of the pivotal act of terrorism, this remains a half-baked waste of some very fine talents. Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain) is a fine actress, and here's hoping we see her in something worthwhile before too long. Ewan McGregor (The Ghost Writer) is one of the screen's most consistent actors and here valiantly tries to make much of little. Matthew MacFadyen, so wonderfully brooding in Pride and Prejudice, is totally wasted. The cinematography is first rate, with Ben Davis (Stardust / Kick-Ass) making wonderful use of the widescreen image in almost every shot. Editing and sound are also extremely good, giving the film visual and auditory impact. The blame has to rest squarely on the writer / director Sharon Maguire. Maguire had great success directing Bridget Jones's Diary, but from someone else's script. Why do so many contemporary filmmakers think they can do it all? Woody Allen can write and direct, but he's Woody Allen. I have just read a wonderful account by John Lahr, son of Bert Lahr (The Cowardly Lion), in which he depicts some of the collaborative confrontations between author Neil Simon and his frequent director Mike Nicholls. Each of these great talents benefitted from the collaborative input of the other, yet much lesser mortals think they can go it alone. With some collaboration thrown into the mix perhaps some of the excesses of this maudlin exercise would have been reined in.

     The ideas and motivations behind this film are admirable and important. Someone needed to sift through the mishmash of ideas and symbols to work out where the emphases should lie. As it stands this is an unsatisfactory mess of a movie desperately in need of a writer.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     This release offers an extremely fine transfer. The transfer is presented at the original aspect ratio of 2.40:1, and is 16x9 enhanced, with excellent used made of the wide frame.

     The image is sharp and clear. Though rather subdued, fitting the setting and subject matter, the colour is excellent. Skin tones are very good. Detail is excellent, whether in extreme close-ups, interior, or the wider shots of London streets and traffic. Shadow detail is impressive. There is no low level noise and a complete absence of artefacts. The film's content has many flaws, but its presentation is exemplary.

     This is a dual layer disc with the change (73:26) giving a momentary freeze of the action on screen.

     The feature has English Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired, which were sampled and found to be excellent.

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

Audio

     There are two audio streams : Dolby Stereo 2.0 Surround Enhanced encoded at 224 Kbps and Dolby digital 5.1 encoded at 448 Kbps.

     The soundtrack is as appropriate and effective as the visuals. The domestic or interior scenes are dialogue centred, and this is front and centre. I admit to some problem with Michelle Williams' dialogue. Occasionally her admirable East End of London accent got between me and comprehension. She has an enormous amount of dialogue, and occasionally a word escaped me. There were no sync problems. The surrounds provided a very involving ambience for the majority of the film, but when the opportunity arose the full onslaught was mightily effective, as in the aftermath of the pivotal bombing. Helicopters, ambulances, collapsing structures were all delivered with considerable impact. The music, though generally pianissimo and reflective, at times made effective use of an extremely thumping bass. This music is credited to two writers, Barrington Pheloung and Shigeru Umebayashi, and although the dominant reflective theme is initially evocative it becomes overused and too obviously manipulative.

     All in all, though, the movie offers aural and visual experiences that outshine its dramatic content.

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

Extras

     Nothing here except the collection of interviews.

Main Menu

    The menu is presented at 1.78:1 over a graphic of Michelle Williams' face, with loads of fake film damage racing over the screen. Audio is provided by the reflective theme from the film.

Interviews

     There are seven interviews, all presented 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced. Add the individual times together and you can see that there is an hour and a half of interview material here. All segments are shot 1.78:1 and are presented 16x9 enhanced with crystal clear close ups of the interviewees. Some subjects are shot relaxing in a darkened cinema, while others are on location. The questions are all fairly predictable, such as "what drew you to this project?" or "what kind of person is your character?", and are presented on a title card before each response. Nothing riveting here, but mildly entertaining, though the relentless self-congratulatory attitude becomes irksome.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 release has a stills gallery of the actors and a short trailer, but does not have the interviews.

Summary

     There is no good reason to see this film other than if you are a completist who is keen on any of the three leads. Ewan McGregor is one actor I definitely follow but this would go at the bottom of his list, even under Moulin Rouge. A pity, for there is obvious commitment and effort here, particularly from poor Michelle Williams. This is a sad, messy experience.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Monday, May 23, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
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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