Jackie Blu-ray Review
Natalie Portman was robbed of an Oscar for her performance in this biopic of Jackie.For all we know about the assassination of JFK, there's been little (cinematic) limelight shed on the flipside to his coin: his loyal wife. Whilst many First Ladys are largely disregarded in the history books, despite whatever great behind the scenes efforts they put in, Jackie's tale is quite unusual. Both small and personal, and grand and nation-shaking at the same time, we see the immediate aftermath of the shocking events in Dallas; the impact on a wife, a mother and her children, and the strength it takes to do what only she appeared to know the nation needed to be done in the ensuing days of anger, mourning and potential chaos.Shot like an old home movie, to suit the 60s style and nominal real footage used, and jumping around in the timeline quite effectively, Jackie isn't a flashy affair. Instead it restricts itself to a few select, key scenes which all carry marked impact: an interview, a walk with a priest, a talk to the kids - spaced out across the proceedings, it's amazing how much the words get to you (however familiar you are with the events). With solid support from the late John Hurt as well as Peter Sarsgaard and Billy Crudup, this really is Portman's baby, perfectly depicting Jackie, from accent to nervousness, and giving the performances of her career.
Picture QualityJackie comes to Region B-locked UK Blu-ray courtesy of Entertainment One, who deliver a suitably vintage 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation in the movie's unusual aspect ratio of 1.66:1 widescreen. Clearly designed, in every way - not least the aforementioned aspect ratio - to evoke a suitable period feel, Jackie never approaches demo standard, instead trading in a weathered, worn look, largely courtesy of the fact that it was shot in Super 16. Whilst this leaves archival footage easier to blend in, it does give the whole film a softer, grainier, more muggy look. Detail is obviously not insignificantly affected, as you would perhaps only expect from 16mm, and, in the digital age, the lack of clarity and precision do not go unnoticed. Nevertheless it's a style, and the transfer is nothing if not faithful to that.
The transfer is faithful to the antique style
The colour scheme does showcase some vibrant tones, in amidst the dour angle taken for select sequences - most obviously the more sombre parts of the narrative - and there are a couple of standout sunset shots that provide the feature with its best visual moments, and the transfer with the same. Again, probably as a result of the shooting style and format, the end result is largely far from pristine, with everything from blocking to compression defects and banding evident at one point or another. It's not a pretty picture but, to a certain extent, it was never intended to be.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a fairly distinctive affair, mostly because of the memorable score from Mica Levi, which was rightfully a contender for an Oscar. Dialogue remains prioritised throughout, and it is certainly a dialogue driven feature, with words both quietly whispered and shouted delivered clearly and coherently across the frontal array. Portman's very accurately rendered Jackie accent comes across beautifully (at times, almost too well, sounding like it was overlayed by a cleaned-up ADR section).
A good little audio track
Effects are nominal, picking up more crowded sequences, as well as key moments from that fateful day, including the gunshot, screams and shouts, car engine roar, and the sound of the buffeting down the road on the way to the hospital. But it's the score that really stands out. Equally striking and jarring, the discourse frequently takes some getting used to, but perfectly suits the chaos and tragedy of the narrative. Overall it's a good little audio track.
ExtrasA solid set of extras
The solid set of extras is headlined by an Audio Commentary (which you'll miss if you don't go to the audio options menu) from director Pablo Larrain and star Natalie Portman which looks at the loving attention put into getting the era, costumes and sets right; the work put into Portman's accent and intonation, as well as her look and even her gait, and the key events depicted. There's also a 22 minute From Jackie to Camelot Featurette which offers up some interesting Behind the Scenes snippets and Interview clips with the cast and crew discussing their work on the production, and a stills Gallery. The disc is rounded off by a number of preview trailers.
Blu-ray VerdictPortman gives a career-defining performance
Having finally watched both La La Land and then Jackie, it is hard to see on what planet Emma Stone's performance in the former could be judged as even worthy of comparison to Natalie Portman's here, let alone more deserving of an Oscar. Although the film may be dismissed as little more than a curio for many, it's surprisingly strong - juggling the intimate and personal with the grand and world-shaking. And Portman, who already has some great acting roles under her belt (including the underrated Garden State, or even Closer, as well as, of course, her Oscar win for Black Swan), drives the entire piece with another career-defining performance.
The disc itself does its best with the Super 16 footage, but was never going to be a pretty watch, whilst the sound and extras fare better. Still, it's well worth checking out.
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