DVD & Blu-ray dvd pick

DVD Pick: Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone is the highly accomplished adaptation of Dennis Lehane‘s novel about the investigation into the disappearance of a young girl in Boston.

The film’s UK release was postponed due to the (entirely coincidental) similarities with the Madeleine McCann case and despite critical acclaim and some award nominations it probably didn’t get the recognition or box office it deserved.

It marks the directorial debut of Ben Affleck, a high profile actor who’s career had become recently mired in less-than-successful work like GigliPaycheck and Surviving Christmas.

However, here he shows considerable promise as a director, not only through the intelligent script he co-wrote Aaron Stockard, but in how he has put together many different elements to create a serious and absorbing crime drama.

He has had the sense to hire a slew of accomplished actors (Ed HarrisMorgan FreemanAmy Madigan) in key supporting roles but also entrusted the two key roles to younger actors with their careers now firmly on the rise.

Amy Ryan deservedly received an Oscar nomination as the mother of the missing girl, whilst Casey Affleck is highly assured in the lead role as the investigator hired to assist the police in the case.

The technical contributions are all excellent with the cinematography of John Toll and music by Harry Gregson-Williams being particular stand outs.  

Perhaps what is most impressive about the film is the way Affleck has refused to romanticise his hometown – he doesn’t flinch from showing the dark complexities of a modern American city, a place where morals and motivations can get easily blurred. 

The extras on the disc are solid without being spectacular and include the following:

  • Going Home: Behind the Scenes with Ben Affleck (7:05): A 6 minuted EPK-style featurette with on set interviews with cast and crew, intercut with scenes from the film.
  • Capturing Authenticity: Casting Gone Baby Gone (8:56): A featurette on the casting, which is one of the major strengths of the film. 
  • Audio Commentary: Ben Affleck and co-writer Aaron Stockard make an informative and engaging duo as they discuss various aspects of the film and production. One sound point they note early on is that given the nature of the plot, it is a film that repays repeated viewings in order to see the how it unfolds. As a first time director Affleck points out a lot of the technical apsects of how certain scenes worked, describing certain shots, reshoots and various other things of note. One nice touch was the use of non-actors who were recruited from the surrounding areas of Dorchester – it is a credit to the main cast that they blend in so well.
  • Deleted Scenes (with audio commentary): Affleck and Stockard also provide commentary on six deleted scenes, all letter boxed, including extended opening and closing scenes. The longer opening (8:20) shows Kenzie working a case and the “eye-opening extended ending” (3:44) is really basically the same thing we see in the film except with an added voice over from Kenzie to match his narration at the beginning and middle of the movie. Four more deleted scenes are included, all lasting less than 2 minutes, so are relatively minor. The decisions Affleck ultimately made regarding what went in the movie and what didn’t are representative of the keen judgment he showed as director.

Overall, although the extras are good, this is worth getting for the film itself – one of the best dramas to be released this year.

Gone Baby Gone is out now on DVD from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment [Cert 15]

* Listen to our intervew with Ben Affleck and Casey Affleck about the film *

> Buy the DVD from Amazon UK or get the Blu-ray version
> Gone Baby Gone at the IMDb 
Official UK site for the film
Check out the trailer for the film
Read reviews of the film at Metacritic
Q&A with author Dennis Lehane at his official website

DVD & Blu-ray Film of the Week

DVD Pick: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

One of the most startling and accomplished films to come out in the last year was 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

This Romanian drama set in 1987 about a woman trying to get an illegal abortion scooped the Palme D’Or at Cannes last year and it was a surprising but worthy winner.

Although the subject matter might put some viewers off it is a truly remarkable film from director Cristian Mungiu that deserves a wider audience than just the arthouse circuit.

The achievement here is that it takes what appears to be a simple situation (the difficulty of abortion in Communist Romania) and manages to wring out the intense human emotions and drama that lie below.

From the young woman who is pregnant (Laura Vasiliu), her loyal friend (Anamaria Marinca) who helps her and the abortionist (Vlad Ivanov) who performs the operation, all are complicit in a highly dangerous situation.

What elevates it above many contemporary dramas is raw power of the narrative, the terrific lead performances from Marinca and Vasiliu and the clever cinematography from Oleg Mutu that utilises long takes that draws us deeper into the characters lives.

Although it is only his second film, director Mungiu has scored a major achievement and created a film that explores the terrible dilemas facing people in a particularly dark corner of Europe’s recent past.

Artificial Eye have done an excellent job with the extras, most of them interesting and insightful.

They include:

  • Featurette – The Romanian Tour: A featurette that shows the filmmaker’s taking a mobile projection unit on a 30 day tour across Romania in order to give people the chance to see the film in a country with only 50 cinemas.
  • Cristian Mungiu Interview: In two informative interviews, the director discusses the development of the script and why his desire to achieve a sense of authenticity in every scene. Some of the shots are discussed alongside alternative takes in specific scenes, the social and historical context, the locations and the reactions to the film.
  • Interview with Anamaria Marinca: The lead actress discusses her background, how she got the part and the input she had into the script.
  • Interview with Oleg Mutu: The cinematographer talks about the lighting and the effects he was trying to achieve in the film.
  • Alternative / Deleted Scenes: Two alternative endings are included, each of them going beyond where the final cut of the film. Another deleted scene with Gabita is included and they are shown in a good quality, letterbox format.

This is one of the best films of the year and an essential purchase for any discerning viewer.

Here is the trailer:

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is out now on DVD from Artificial Eye

> Buy the DVD at Amazon
> 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days at the IMDb
> Official website
> Reviews of the film at Metacritic
> Screen shots from DVD Beaver