Fences Blu-ray Review
A man's gotsta know his limitations
Fences is a powerful third directorial outing from Denzel Washington, transcending its stage origins to remain a beautifully scripted and acted masterpiece.With razor-sharp dialogue delivered at a breakneck pace, oftentimes Fences feels like something Aaron Sorkin might have come up with, a dialogue-dense production which is almost overwhelming for its character-and stage-setting first act. Limited to a few key locations, with only a couple of necessary sequences that take place beyond the small backyard of the family house, Fences is a period piece that looks at family, upbringing, marriage, parenthood, friendship, the sins of the father, racism, pride, and a dozen other things that you simply couldn't fathom would all be present in a play-based film set in a backyard.Washington is clearly the driving component both behind and in front of the camera, putting in a refined performance that he has clearly nurtured over years of playing the role on stage. It's amidst his best work ever, keenly supported by one of Viola Davis's best-ever performances too, and a great crew of supporting characters - many of whom have been retained from the stage cast. Balancing heavyweight themes with allegorical substance, it tells a huge, epic story, despite the restricted, small-scale confines of its setting, painting a snapshot that reflects a whole lifetime, and condensing it into one masterful feature.
Picture QualityFences comes to UK shores on a Region Free Blu-ray that promotes the 35mm-shot feature in glorious High Definition, with a largely excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation framed in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen. Despite its small scale and stage origins, limiting the locations, Fences looks very filmic, textured and surprisingly impressive in HD.
Fences looks very filmic and surprisingly impressive given its stage origins
Detail remains acutely observed throughout, lapping up the nuances of the urban neighbourhood environment, and showing precision on facial close-ups, where every frown and wrinkle is strongly represented. Clarity remains prevalent, with no signs of softness around the edges, and no damage or defects. The colour scheme is intentionally limited, given the setting and style, picking up on the woody, earthy tones and remaining strong when it comes to the black levels too. It's a very nice presentation indeed and, despite the scope, it's frequently demo worthy to boot.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, is, in some respects, overkill for a film with this kind of limited scope, but it nevertheless does a very good job with the material, bringing the neighbourhood to life with fine observations of all the nuances, and peppered with a smattering of far more engaging music moments.
The audio is limited, but it does a very good job with the material
Clearly, given the stage origins, it's the dialogue that remains the most important component, finely prioritised across the array, but the finer elements of the score and effects are nonetheless well-represented. It's a solid presentation of limited source material - purely from the sound design point of view, obviously - and it's as good as you'd expect.
ExtrasA quintet of featurettes offer some background into the production, the transition from stage to screen and the actors who did both, the fine work from Washington in front and behind the camera; and the setting - Expanding the Audience: From Stage to Screen; The Company of Fences; Building Fences: Denzel Washington; Playing the Part: Rose Maxson; August Wilson's Hill District.
Blu-ray VerdictA beautifully-scripted and acted masterpiece
Fences is an accomplished film that effortlessly transitions from stage to screen. The UK Blu-ray captures all the film's best qualities and offers up excellent video and audio, as well as a strong selection of extras, and is a blind buy for fans of superior acting and filmmaking. Highly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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