Galveston 4K Blu-ray Review
The Road to Perdition
Galveston Film ReviewLaurent may have gained some international fame for her work on Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds, but she has always favoured smaller French projects, making her directorial debut at the audaciously young age of 28. Now, seven years later, she has turned in an assured English language debut with Galveston, forging a noir-infused crime drama that's still laced with quintessentially French sensibilities, and which keenly juxtaposes some stunningly beautiful cinematography with lurid flashes of the dark and sad underbelly of society.
The story follows Ben Foster's hard-drinking, hard-smoking mob enforcer, who has just had some bad news from the doctor and some worse news from his boss - walking into an ambush which in turn sends him on the run with Elle Fanning's teenage prostitute, another victim he finds and frees and who brings with her yet more baggage: her baby sister. As the dysfunctional trio hot-foot their way out of town, a storm of trouble is brewing that threatens to tear them apart at any moment.
An odd melange of True Detective, You Were Never Really Here and The Florida Project, with compelling results.
Although based on Pizzolatto's debut novel of the same name, and adapted by the acclaimed screenwriter who was show runner and almost the sole writer on all three seasons of the excellent True Detective, Galveston was actually somewhat disowned by the writer, who adopted a pseudonym for his screenwriting credit due to the additional work that director Mélanie Laurent did to the script.
Despite this, the script and direction are first class, with Laurent really coming into her own as an accomplished auteur, and whilst her tinkering may have put Pizzolatto's nose out of joint, it also made the feature more overtly hers in style, rather than just being a feature film variation on True Detective (although who wouldn't want to see that). As a result, Galveston boasts a strange unpredictability, blending road trip, thriller, family woes, critical illness tragedy and a whole world of emotional baggage into an eclectic package of crime and self-punishment.
Performances are outstanding - Foster and Fanning are at the top of their game (Fanning, who has shown some degree of promise with films like Refn's The Neon Demon, has a heartbreakingly powerful scene that is surely the pinnacle of her young career) - and Laurent manages to turn the whole piece, which could have been an easy modern noir genre entry, into something strikingly founded in tragic reality, and fusing an odd melange of True Detective, You Were Never Really Here and The Florida Project Blu-ray Review, with compelling results.
Galveston 4K PictureGalveston comes to US Ultra HD Blu-ray courtesy of RLJ Entertainment, and much of its technical specifications remain remarkably underpublished. It's possible that it may have been shot digitally, as the image handles frequent near-darkness flawlessly, but the spectacular shots on offer also leave it quite possibly a full-fat 4K presentation too.
The disc presents a native 3840 x 2160p resolution image utilising the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1. It uses 10-bit video depth, a Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range (HDR), and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec.
We reviewed the US Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Galveston on a LG 55B7 Dolby Vision 4K Ultra HD OLED TV with an LG UP970 Dolby Vision 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
It deserves a demo rating for it's technical handling of black levels even if many will be scratching their heads over just why it's so dark.
There's no doubt that Galveston looks exceptionally good - Laurent has framed some strikingly panoramic shots that showcase the most unexpected locations with devastating beauty: whether it's a long-focus beachfront vista or a pier out to a lake, or a woodland cabin - but it's also absolutely drowned in frequently impenetrable darkness.
Whilst Netflix has occasionally gone full tilt in this respect, few 4K releases are quite this dark (indeed, if The Meg was the brightest 4K release ever, this is kind-of like the anti-Meg). Assuming it is a stylistic choice, then this is also a strangely wonderful showcase of just how superior the 4K format can be, rendering such supreme darkness with blacks so utterly devoid of crush, with HDR and WCG working overtime to resolve everything in the dead of night, or in the world's worst-lit bar, where streaks of colour should bleed but are instead perfectly intact.
Facial close-ups are also impressive, lapping up the textures on Foster and Fanning, in all their most raw moments, and it's certainly a memorably-lensed noir-esque feature, which arguably - and much like The Meg with it's blinding brightness - deserves a demo rating for its technical handling of deep black levels, even if many will be scratching their heads over just why it's so damn dark.
Galveston 4K SoundAlthough not blessed with an immersive 3D High Definition audio track in the form of Atmos or DTS:X, considering it's a miracle that the title got a 4K release at all, it's hard to complain about the audio quality. Galveston's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is more than up to the challenge of providing a hearty, atmospheric backdrop.
Galveston's audio track is more than up to the challenge of providing a hearty, atmospheric backdrop.
Dialogue remains firmly prioritised across the array, coming through clearly and coherently throughout, even gruffly delivered, and effects enjoy bringing the environments to life, whether the quiet back-alleys or motels, or the extremely tense voyage through the textile plant. Gunshots boom across the array with LFE fury, literally drowning out the audio with deafening fury, and the score portends the dark undercurrent permeating the piece, with a few bar jukebox tracks spicing up the proceedings. It's a solid, very good, audio track.
Galveston 4K ExtrasA few previews on startup and a 20-minute Making-of Featurette keep this from being completely bare-bones.
Galveston 4K VerdictBen Foster really deserves more credit than he generally gets; he's a complete scene-stealer in everything from Lone Survivor and 3:10 to Yuma to The Finest Hours and Hell or High Water, but his lead projects like this and the equally underrated Leave No Trace themselves appear to disappear without a trace. He's a commanding presence, and under the impressive direction of Laurent, supported by an utterly committed Elle Fanning, the results are tremendous.
Ben Foster really deserves more credit than he generally gets; his lead projects like this and the equally underrated Leave No Trace themselves appear to disappear without a trace.
Although it would appear unlikely that Galveston will even earn a UK Blu-ray release (given the recent habit of making anything but utterly mainstream products more than just a nominal wide DVD release), at least it gets a full 4K release in the US, affording excellent video, great audio, and even a little look behind the production. Fans who appreciate the under-appreciated work of Foster, and who love True Detective, should definitely hunt it down.
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