DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

Winter's Bone - Blu-ray Review


Winter's Bone

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Forming the swarthy spine of Winter’s Bone is the unspoken code of silence so entrenched in the Ozark Mountain foothills – where the only pastime more important than squirrel hunting is meth labbing – its mere mention often begets a fate worthy of the mob-run streets of Jersey.

17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself up against this outlaw code after her father puts up the family house against his jail bond and abruptly disappears. Ree must find her father soon or the entire family will be turned out into the barren Ozark woods.

Director Debra Granik’s rough-hewn adaptation of Daniel Woodrell’s novel of the same name, takes on many personas as it runs its shadowy course. It begins as a lazy missing-person story that masterfully blends into its fold, a documentary-like exposition of the enshrouded environment and its people… an environment not often seen on film, and a peculiar people used to setting their own rules and unaccustomed to outside intervention. The story’s final act morphs into a seething murder mystery with an ending as grisly as anything we’ve seen on film.

The film won the Grand Jury Prize and screenwriting award at this year’s Sundance, but the tick at the film’s heart is young Jennifer Lawrence who takes her role of Ree and takes over the film. She pulls from her Kentucky roots to lay down a wrenching depiction of what it must be like to subsist in this harsh mountainous environment. Her Ree is an interesting twist on the typical male hero, reflecting the matriarchal nature of deep woods societies. It’s the women who keep things going in these hills and it’s Ree who is willing to fight to keep her family together

With her father gone and her mother in a catatonic state, Ree chops the wood, hunts for food and teaches her younger siblings to skin and cook a squirrel. She’s smart and she’s tough, but as her search begins to erode the mystery behind her father’s disappearance, the area erupts into a meth-fueled screen of violence separating Ree from the truth.

At times the film’s mood becomes so relentless and unyielding it threatens to steal The Road’s thunder of hopelessness and despair. But always cutting through the darkness is Ree’s bright spirit and relentless strength of character.

Granik’s sensitive treatment of the oft-stereotyped hill culture also goes a long way towards keeping the film afloat despite its sparse dialogue and lean plot. She avoids distorted characterizations of the culture by failing to fall into the usual trappings of what we think we know about hillbillies. Although the banjo does make an appearance in a clever little nod to Deliverance, Granik and her film crew managed to chip away at the hill country stereotypes while adding some new visions to what we’ve seen before.

As the credits roll, we’re left with an array of heavy emotions… some haunting, others comforting. We’ve all heard of the horrific effect Meth has on the end-user (surely some have experienced it first-hand), but in Winter’s Bone, we’re given an all-to-realistic insight into the other end of the scourge. On those backwood crannies and cook shack chemists who give birth to the dangerous poison. And it ain’t pretty folks!

On the other end of the emotional spectrum is Ree, who navigates the puzzle of her young life and manages to soldier on despite the difficult circumstances thrown at her. There’s positive emotional value for the viewer in seeing Ree’s reserved sense of accomplishment at just doing the right thing.

Winter’s Bone is a movie to be experienced, not merely watched. But be forewarned: It’s powerful stuff.


Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - October 26, 2010
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)

Nearly bleached of all its color, the 1080p transfer is bone-chillingly appropriate.  It is stark in color, with a purposeful heralding of pale blue and earthy greens.  Expect for some detail to be lost in the night scenes since this harrowing tale is nearly a black-and-white film.  One can’t fault the transfer for the lack of details, though.  This is as the director and her cinematographer want it.  The sound, full of ambience and reverb, is presented in a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that captures the haunting folk music nicely.  Yet, when the action and violence hits the bass and dynamics are well worked, too.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Director Granik and cinematographer Michael McDonough provide the film’s only commentary.  It is full of valuable information regarding the film’s production, but extremely understated, super quiet and very, very slow.  It may prove to be a tad too trying – at times – for its 100 minute stretch.

Extra Features:

There aren’t a lot of featurettes, but they are pretty informative and their length more than makes up for the total lack of supplements. The near-hour-long making of is worth the price of admission into the world of blu-ray alone.

  • The Making of 'Winter's Bone' (50 mins)
  • Alternative Opening & 4 Deleted Scenes (10 mins): this one is interesting because you get to see, not just the deleted scenes, but the director at work behind the scenes giving the actors notes
  • Hardscrabble Elegy (3 mins): music material composed by Dickon Hinchliffe
  • Music Credits: an interesting feature that gives information on the source cues used in the film

Original Theatrical Trailer

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