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FOX

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Terrence Malick
Cast:
Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn
Writing Credits:
Terrence Malick

Synopsis:
Jack O'Brien grows up in 1950s Texas with a caring mother and a stern father.

Box Office:
Budget
$32 million.
Domestic Gross
$13,303,319.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
English Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 139 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 10/11/2011
Bonus:
• “Exploring The Tree of Life” Featurette
• Trailer


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Tree of Life [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 30, 2018)

From 1973 to 2010, Terrence Malick directed a mere four movies. In 2011, he released The Tree of Life, his second Oscar Best Picture-nominated effort, and apparently this unleashed a creative rush.

From Tree in 2011 to 2018’s Radegund, Malick made five films. Once known as a director who rarely put out new material, Malick suddenly became a filmmaking machine.

Whether this abets Malick’s legacy seems up for grabs. While Tree got a good reception, the next three films received weak reviews, a complete shift from the consistent praise he earned for everything through Tree.

Perhaps Radegund will reclaim Malick’s prior glories. It looks more and more likely that Tree will become his critical last gasp, though.

Jack O’Brien (Hunter McCracken) spends his youth in small-town Texas circa the 1950s. One of three brothers, he grows up with a kind, nurturing mother (Jessica Chastain) and a tough, hard-edged father (Brad Pitt).

These experiences stick with Jack. As an adult (Sean Penn), he continues to cope with the events that shaped him as a child.

Have I ever written a more vague story synopsis? Probably, but this one comes close to my least-detailed overview.

That’s because Malick never was one for plot-heavy movies. While I hesitate to call him a “style over substance” director, he clearly puts more of an emphasis on visuals and pacing than narrative specifics.

This trend continues for Tree, a movie with nothing one could call an actual “plot” – and the narrative elements I describe above don’t arrive until we’ve already made a considerable dent in the film’s running time. Tree starts in the 1960s and alludes to the death of one of the brothers before it then flashes back - way, way back - to the creation of life on Earth.

If that’s not a “WTF?” moment, what is? It all makes sense eventually, as the view of pre-history connects to Malick’s themes of water and nurturance, but the shift may jar the viewer.

Tree follows this “origin story” with material more connected to the main characters, as we see Jack’s birth and early childhood. From there we eventually catch up with the 1950s Jack we follow for most of the movie’s running time.

Once this finally occurs nearly 50 minutes into the film, Tree becomes more conventional, but it clearly remains part of the Malick oeuvre. This means that the 1950s Jack narrative feels more traditional than the heavily atmospheric material that precedes it but Tree stays extremely impressionistic.

To some degree, I appreciate this, as Malick clearly refuses to spoon-feed the audience, and at its best, Tree can become an evocative picture of childhood. As usual, Malick paints a film of indelible imagery that bolsters the effort.

However, Malick’s stubborn refusal to embrace any true form of “normal” storytelling becomes wearisome after a while. Too much of Tree feels more like a collection of someone’s old home movies than an attempt to tell a coherent narrative.

I get that Malick wants to deliver an experience more focused on themes than plot, but Tree never really manages to dig into its concepts in a compelling way. Sure, it tries to take on a broad array of elements, but it doesn’t expand them in a deep manner.

This means it dabbles with various domains. We get notions of good vs. evil – mainly via the contrast between Jack’s mother and father – and Malick embraces water in a major way, as it operates consistently as a factor for positive and negative means. We also find a heavy religious component as well as morality in a flawed world.

All of this seems intended to go somewhere, but it doesn’t. The themes feel like windowdressing more than anything else and they don’t contribute real meaning to the movie.

In truth, Tree really just offers an artsy telling of a well-trodden story about life with a stern father. Leave out its impressionistic trappings and does it bring an effort that goes anywhere deeper than something like Great Santini?

Nope – for all its pretensions, Tree doesn’t deliver the goods in terms of real introspection or meaning. It looks great and I respect its attempts to go somewhere different with its concepts, but the end result lacks true depth.


The Disc Grades: Picture A/ Audio A-/ Bonus C

The Tree of Life appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect a stunning visual experience.

From start to finish, the film looked great. Nary a sliver of softness arose here, so the film appeared accurate and well-defined at all times.

Jagged edges and moiré effects remained absent, and I saw no signs of edge haloes or digital noise reduction. Print flaws also failed to impact this clean presentation.

Much of the film opted for a blue/teal tint, but the palette allowed for a wide variety of other hues – especially in the “creation of life” sequences, which boasted a broad array of tones. The Blu-ray depicted these well and gave them fine range and impact.

Blacks seemed deep and dense, while shadows looked smooth and clear. This turned into a top-notch image.

Almost as good, the film’s DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack brought a lot to the package as well. Unsurprisingly, the aforementioned “creation of life” scenes fared best, as they formed a lively, vivid soundscape that spread a lot of audio around the room.

Other segments lacked the same impact, but the mix still managed to form a broad, involving sense of the environment. Music also spread to the various channels in a vivid manner to help make this a strong soundfield.

Audio quality held up well, with speech that seemed natural and concise. Music came across as lush and rich as well.

Effects delivered strong range, with clean highs and deep bass. During a smattering of scenes, the low-end response brought a serious bang, and these elements remained warm and tight. The audio suited the film.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a program called Exploring The Tree of Life. It goes for 29 minutes, 56 seconds and includes comments from producers Dede Gardner, Bill Pohlad, Sarah Green, Grant Hill and Nicolas Gonda, senior visual effects supervisor Dan Glass, visual effects consultant Douglas Trumbull, editor Mark Yoshikawa, production designer Jack Fisk, costume designer Jacqueline West, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, and composer Alexandre Desplat, filmmakers David Fincher and Christopher Nolan, and actors Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Laramie Eppler, Hunter McCracken, and Tye Sheridan.

“Exploring” looks at various facets of the production, while Fincher and Nolan add appreciation for director Terrence Malick’s work. This doesn’t quite become a great behind the scenes show, but it adds a bit of information to the mix.

As much as I respect the cinematic ambition of The Tree of Life, the end result seems too formless. The movie offers an impressionistic view of childhood that falls short of the depth and meaning it aspires to impart. The Blu-ray boasts excellent picture and audio as well as a decent featurette. Tree looks great but never becomes especially involving.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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