Mud is a beautiful, heartfelt tale: honest but not brutal; wise but not cynical
Mud Blu-ray ReviewDespite its ostensible modern day setting, Writer/Director Jeff Nichols’s third feature, Mud, has all the tropes of a period piece; the same period, undoubtedly, from which its biggest source inspiration – the works of Mark Twain – emanated. It’s a classic coming-of-age story, in the same vein as Stand By Me, or even Great Expectations, with which it also draws comparison, and, whilst it may never quite sit equal amidst any of these superior tales, it comes impressively close. With strong performances, from its young and old cast members alike; frequently exquisite, Malickian cinematography; and an excellent mirrored tale of blind love and repeated life mistakes, set against a similarly-mirrored backdrop of an older society which doesn’t want to accept modern changes, Mud may well end up being the movie that you most regret missing at the cinema in 2013.
The beauty in Mud is that, whilst overtly contemporary in setting, it harks back to an age long gone; with the characters seemingly trapped in a place which is, itself, trapped in the past – the whole world kept moving, but this one little part of town didn’t manage to keep up. For the inhabitants, time stood still, and attempting to see life beyond their river-house shacks is almost impossible; an alien concept. Only in this timeless setting could you have two teen kids spirited up the river to a tiny, deserted island, and encountering Mud there. The kids could have existed a hundred years ago, separated only by a few modern phrases they spout, the age of the cars around them, and some of the belongings they have.
Mud Blu-ray Picture QualityHitting UK shores with a Region B-locked release, the movie is given a 1080p/AVC encode and comes presented in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. As you might only expect from a film whose visuals attract comparisons to the works of Terrence Malick, there is some genuinely beautiful material here and this video presentation more than does it justice with an excellent demo rendition, popping with close fine object detail and exquisitely-observed textures - both in terms of skin and facial detail, and in terms of panoramic vistas and scenery-capturing shots. The colour scheme is broad and rich, although generally avoids overly and unnaturally vibrant hues in order to maintain setting authenticity, and allow or further evocative period style. Black levels are strong, occasionally faltering but only in the utmost extreme, with a hint of ensuing shadow detail loss. There's no sign of intrusive edge enhancement; no signs of excessive DNR application, and, with no digital defects, this is a very impressive presentation.
This is a very impressive presentation.
Mud Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track promotes the suitably and expectedly reserved material in a thoroughly atmospheric fashion, crafting a heady, intoxicating atmosphere as we take increasingly treacherous trips up and down the river. Dialogue comes across clearly, crisply and coherently throughout, taking precedence over the fronts and centre channels, but natural, often animal- and water-related effects also shine through, reminding you of that immersive backdrop that has been fashioned by the soundscape. The score, again suitably understated, further enhances the package, and gives the surrounds yet more to do. It's a wonderfully unassuming but nonetheless absorbing piece, momentarily lit up by a thunderous climax where gunshots ignite the stage, but really defined by a warm consistency and well-crafted atmosphere.
Mud Blu-ray Extras
Marking yet another UK release that appears to have lost its extras during the trip across the pond, this package boasts just a few interviews and an unexceptional Making Of Featurette. Fans will wonder where the quartet of informative Featurettes and - most importantly - the Director's Commentary have disappeared to. Again, if you're Region A compatible, this may be a sticking point.
Is Mud Blu-ray Worth BuyingMud is a beautiful, heartfelt tale: honest but not brutal; wise but not cynical – carried by its performances, bolstered by the backbone of Nichols’ strong screenplay whilst further shaped by his director’s eye. The end result is a tremendous coming-of-age drama that may well be one of the best movies of 2013. Not to be missed.
On Region B-locked UK Blu-ray we get excellent video, impressive audio, but a disappointing set of extras that unforgivably fails to match up to the US counterpart, losing the integral Audio Commentary provided by the Director. If you’ve already seen – and know you love – the movie, and if cost and Region coding aren’t an issue, then the US release is clearly the definitive choice. Those who are limited to Region B discs, and who want to tentatively test the water before spending the money on importing a disc, will find this a very good release and will hopefully find this an exceptional movie. Either way, it comes highly recommended.
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