The overall lack of focus is confusing and alienating
“You remember last week when you said that there was an invisible line that separates good from evil and you'd thought you crossed it and I said no, no, no you're a good boy? I've changed my opinion.”Jerry Hickfang is a really nice guy; friendly, a little shy, but polite and generous. He also has a secret: a dark past that has him in therapy and on drugs to keep him stable. Unfortunately, Jerry doesn’t like taking the drugs, he’d much rather live in his fantasy world where he is never alone due to the conversations he has with his pets. But worse still, when an accident occurs and Jerry chooses a difficult path, his hallucinations egg him on and suddenly his life is spiralling out of control. He does not see himself as a bad man, nor making bad choices, rather he is in a difficult place with no-one to turn to but himself - and he is his own worst enemy! The Voices appeared on the 2009 ‘Blacklist’ of most popular unmade films and has been brought to life by director Marjane Satrapi, writer Michael R. Perry and stars Ryan Reynolds in the title role.Now I like Reynolds both as an actor and as an interviewee (he was great on Top Gear) and he does very well in the role bringing that calm, likeable, nurturing but out-of-his-depth characterisation that the film needs. And you would think that Satrapi would be the right choice to bring the film alive; however something just doesn’t quite gel – the film is a black comedy, but it never really knows where its loyalties lie. Whilst Jerry is a very likeable character and we see the story through his eyes, the film's moral compass is way off. I was hoping for something more akin to Waters’ Serial Mom, instead we have a hodgepodge of ideas not fully realised, gruesome gore going hand in hand with attempts at comedy, as if no-one had a clear vision of where the film was going or what it wanted to say. Sadly The Voices ends up being a missed opportunity.
Picture QualityThe disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec, my check disc was actually Region free, but the disc itself and the supporting material suggest the finished release will be region locked to B.
Shot digitally the picture is quite vivid, bright and very well detailed. Skin texture is pin sharp, as are clothing lines, while sets and location shoots are equally well seen. Detail in Jerry’s apartment, both hallucinatory and real is excellent, the clean lines of the many boxes, the wall coverings and pet fur. Check out the bark on the trees in the forests, deep enough to get splinters from.
Colouring is also very nice, the primaries are strong, though it is probably pink that is the most vivid – anywhere in the bath factory for example. Reds are deep and penetrating, blood is suitably gloopy and thick, while green and blue grade very well, never any hint of wash or bleed.
the picture is quite vivid, bright and very well detailed
Contrast and brightness are set to give deep strong blacks that add significant depth to the frame; only in one or two instances did this fade to grey, but that might have been an artefact of the digital grading. There is no white clip, though, and trees highlighted against the bright sky don’t lose any detail. Digitally there were no compression problems or edge enhancement, though there were a couple of instances of light banding but nothing to spoil the otherwise terrific picture. The original digital source is, obviously, pristine.
Sound QualityJust the one track to go with: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround, and it is very good indeed. Effects are very well catered for, both front to back and left to right, with ambience being dealt with by the surrounds to really envelop you into the sound field. The production line of the factory, or when there is torrential rain, or the hallucinations that plague Jerry’s mind all bring a ‘realism’ to the sound scape. Dialogue is very natural sounding held for the most part in the frontal array, though given some nice directionality when needed, based around the hallucinations again. The score is very well layered into the mix and gets some terrific stereo effects placing front and centre. While bass is deep enough to sound natural without plumbing the depths of the Earth; LF effects are limited but the sub does get some nice rumbles, thunder being just one. On the whole a very good sounding track with much going for it.
ExtrasInterviews – Around twenty minutes of interviews with key members of the cast and crew, answering questions posed that we read from a title card (such as ‘How did you get involved?’, ‘What drew you to the project?’ and ‘How do you see the film?’ etc.) Contributions from Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Marjane Satrapi, Michael R. Perry, Matthew Rhodes, Roy Lee and Adi Shankar.
Scare Prank – About a minute, it features a PR stunt in a shopping mall with a real ‘head in a fridge’ offering free drinks.
Deleted Scenes – About ten minutes of scenes that add a few character beats and some additional information but removed due to duplication.
Extended Scenes – Just under five minutes and two scenes, most time spent on Jerry’s hallucination at work.
Pet Voice Recording – Just that, a few minutes with Reynolds recording the voices of his pets, various takes then the one chosen is seen in the final film.
Behind the scenes – Exactly that, raw behind the scenes filming, as if someone was just walking around with a camera filming what is happening between and during film takes; refreshing in the aspect that there is no attempt to glam up this feature or add narration or interviews, just pure ‘what’s happening at that time' footage.
Animatics – About twenty minutes and is a combination of raw computer graphics and hand drawn pictures animated to pace scenes and show what is going to be filmed; contains dialogue and sound effects.
Blu-ray VerdictThe Voices is a black comedy starring Ryan Reynolds, brought to the screen by director Marjane Satrapi and tells the story of Jerry, a very nice, amiable guy with a dark past that has left him in therapy and on drugs to keep him stable. However, since he does not like the ‘real’ world he chooses not to take them so that he may live in his fantasy one, a place where he is not alone and has conversations with his pets – unfortunately things go awry when a terrible accident occurs while on a date and the choices he makes lead him down an ever decreasing spiral of despair where he is his own worst enemy.
Satrapi directs with a sure hand and Reynolds is very likeable in the lead and is supported by a terrific cast; but the film is all over the place with its tone and moral compass. Yes it is a black comedy but its overall lack of focus in what it's trying to say and singular view point leads to alienating the audience due to its confusion of loyalties. The gruesome gore back to back with attempts at comedy don’t quite gel either. Whist the idea, scope, characters and direction are good, the end result is still confused and ultimately boring.
The idea, scope, characters and direction are good, but the end result is confused
As a Blu-ray package, the set form Arrow is pretty good; the picture is terrific with excellent detail, good colouring and a strong black level, while the sound is just as absorbing, being very enveloping with good effects, bass and well mixed. The extras are OK, if a little on the light side. Ultimately, though, the disc will live and die on the film itself and this one might struggle to find a home.
You can buy The Voices on Blu-ray here
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