Dern's Oscar-worthy twilight performance offers understated, poignant poetry
Nebraska Blu-ray Review
Touching and thoughtful, this beautiful little gem will take you on a trip which is all about the journey and little to do with the destination.Nebraska follows the seemingly whimsical and perhaps even outright insane obsession of Woody, an old, borderline-senile once-alcoholic who goes on a quest to travel hundreds of miles from Montana to Nebraska to claim the million dollars that a spurious, generic mailing states that he may have won. It’s a crazy quest, and everybody knows it, but Woody refuses to see that, plagued – as his son explains – with an innate trust in what anybody tells him, so much so that if a letter arrives saying he may have won a million, he believes that that’s what has happened.
Of course, Nebraska is about far more than just Woody’s journey, surrounding him with old acquaintances, friends and family, who – when they hear of his windfall – all react in frequently venomous, money-grabbing ways. Conversely, there are a few whose reaction is the polar opposite; who cling to Woody and, even when they see the sheer insanity of his obsession, merely want to help this lost soul fulfil one last wish.Shot in exquisite black and white by The Descendants’ Director Alexander Payne, fans of Payne’s work will note the familiar dark wit, touching true-to-life observations, and very human drama that pervades this piece, and similarly revel – perhaps as they did with Clooney’s understated, against-type performance in The Descendants – at Bruce Dern’s fabulous centre-stage lead. At once unlike anything he’s ever done before, it’s also quintessentially Dern, as he conveys so much with so little; poised, eccentric, understated and restrained, he’s superior in the role, and the eclectic cast of familiar, and less familiar, faces further enhances the piece.
Slow-burning, but immensely satisfying, there’s plenty to explore, absorb and engage-with in this unusual character drama.
What is Nebraska Blu-ray Picture QualityNebraska makes its UK Region Free bow complete with the same 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation that adorned Paramount’s Region Free US equivalent. It’s a largely impressive affair, boasting frequently stunning shots is glorious monochromatic glory..
The decision to implement black and white cinematography is perfect for the piece, and the film looks simply gorgeous.
Detail is excellent throughout, with striking clarity that brings us superior facial close-ups, rich and layered background textures, clothing weaves and scenery elements. Dern’s visage has probably never looked this haggard, and every crag and wrinkle is on show here, as well as every single wisp of hair.
Contrast is also superb, allowing for a fantastic spread of shades across from deep and rich blacks right the way through to brilliant whites; and every shade of grey in between. Despite what would be seen as a limitation – the black and white cinematography – this is still a beautiful demo piece.
What is Nebraska Blu-ray SoundThe accompanying soundtrack is almost as impressive, and similarly presented in a slightly unconventional form, only this time, the limitations are a little more evident in the end result, with a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 3.0 lossless mix which, unfortunately, simply can’t quite compete at a reference level.
Although it’s arguably perfect for the piece, the very good audio track can’t quite compete in the big leagues.
Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, dominating the frontal array for the majority of the proceedings - understandable given that this is an entirely dialogue-driven affair - and providing the backbone for the track. Effects are almost entirely ambient and atmospheric, from car engines and traffic noises on the highway to the light buzz in small-town bars or emergency-room hubbub. The score plays a strong part too, and provides arguably the second most prominent element in the mix, but it also knows its place, kicking in during the quieter moments, between exchanges of dialogue, or during the hours spent on the road, and providing some potent, thoughtful embellishment.
Without the expansiveness of the surrounds, or the weight of the LFE channel, this is still a limited affair but, in so far as this movie is concerned, it's a perfect choice for the material.
Nebraska Blu-ray ExtrasA single, half-hour Making-of Documentary makes this release far from bare-bones, but also leaves you wanting. The cast and crew interview snippets dominate the piece, offering insight into the premise and the production, the themes and the relationships, the cast and the characters, as well as the technical side of things - the locations, shooting in black and white, and the style of the director. It's good, but far from all-encompassing, and far from fully-satisfying.
Is Nebraska Blu-ray Worth BuyingFollowing suit after Sideways and The Descendants, Director Alexander Payne continues his run of acclaimed human dramas, running rich with equal parts sharp wit and authentic character observation, as puts veteran actor Bruce Dern centre-stage in a late-career-high performance.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get stunning video and very good audio, as well as a decent half-hour Making-Of, leaving this a must-have purchase for fans of the film, and well worth investigating for those interested in whether or not this film deserved its half-dozen Oscar Nominations. The short answer is yes, but I recommend you try it to find out for yourself.
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