Nocturnal Animals Blu-ray Review
If you can get past THAT opening credit sequence...
Tom Ford's dark story-within-a-story loves subtext and symbolism more than it respects its audience, but is still a compelling watch.There's something tremendous about Ford's ability to accomplish a truly fully rounded film within a film; so expertly crafted that the actual revenge story within would have, in its own right, made for a dark and deeply disturbing movie by itself. Instead though, in Nocturnal Animals Ford has taken an exquisitely constructed dark Western/noir thriller and inserted it into the 'real' world; as a lonely wife, disheartened by the world of art within which she makes her living, and finding her husband increasingly distant, reads the novel written by her ex-husband, which recounts a horrific tale of loss and revenge and makes her think back to the events that led to their split. In some ways, the extensive use of flashbacks to pick up on the wife's first marriage could arguably frame an entire third story, leaving Ford juggling a trifecta of perfectly married story strands which intersect and symbolically reflect one another.Ford not only crafts two (or three) very different looking films - the revenge saga steeped in gritty, grimy, sweaty desert dust, whilst the real world has a clinical, clean and cold look of shimmering extravagance - but also elicits two distinct performances from lead Jake Gyllenhaal, playing both the wounded protagonist of his novel, as well as the sensitive writer (ex-)husband in the flashbacks. Amy Adams too delivers, as her whole world slowly comes crumbling down, but it's still Michael Shannon who steals almost every scene. Unfortunately, from the shocking opening credit sequence - that, alone, will likely put off many - to the opaque ending, Ford's exercise in technical marvel doesn't quite deliver a satisfying watch. For all the exquisite craftsmanship, it's hard to enjoy a movie that so embraces both subtlety and misdirection, when the two together make for an unnecessarily slight result.
Picture QualityNocturnal Animals reaches UK shores on a Region B-locked Blu-ray that promotes the film with an impressive 1080/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Shot in 35mm, the suitably filmic presentation is wonderfully layered, with a visual aesthetic likely courtesy of Ford's stylistic predispositions that perfectly suits the two distinct narratives.
Something of a work of art
Detail is lapped up at every stage, picking up on facial nuances - from Amy Adams' perfectly made-up visage to the oftentimes sweaty, sun-baked look of both Shannon and Gyllenhaal in the novel's narrative - and also on background textures, and impressing both in the clinically-framed and finely-staged close-ups and the broader, long shots. The colour scheme is rich and vibrant, taking in this warm fictional Texan environment, and appreciating the clinical cold, real world, although both settings pop with dashes of reds and hints of primaries, and black levels remain almost impenetrably deep across the board. Demo and reference quality through and through, the film looks stunning; something of a work of art.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a subtly immersive affair, which sweeps you up in the dark and twist-laden maelstrom, playing up to the deceptions of the narrative, and taking you along for this moody ride into the abyss.
An immersive affair, taking you for a moody ride into the abyss
Dialogue remains a core component in this film, and comes firmly prioritised across the frontal array, clearly rising above the rest of the proceedings, whilst the instrumental score twists and teases you behind the scenes, always keeping the surrounds in check. Effects are mostly ambient and atmospheric, although the more punchy notes - car crashes and gunshots - are delivered with shock and veritable impact, and carry considerable dynamic resonance, eagerly disseminated with precision across the surrounds with more than a little LFE backing. Powerful but precise, this is a great aural accompaniment.
ExtrasA little slim in the extras department.
There's only one supplemental feature on this release, which makes the package a little slim in the extras department, delivering the 3-part Making of Nocturnal Animals which is little over ten minutes in length in total, leaving the three parts - which focus on the story, the style and the director - little more than 3-4 minutes each to cover their subjects. Far from comprehensive, it's also far from the usual EPK fluff, but we could have done with more, and a commentary certainly wouldn't have gone amiss.
Blu-ray VerdictFord's exercise in technical marvel doesn't quite deliver a satisfying watch
Some may lap up the rich ambiance and subtle subtext, revel in the opaque symbolism and look past the somewhat unpleasant opening sequence, but others will be put off right from the outset, whilst a middle ground of people will appreciate the intricate interwoven tales Ford is telling here, but be left somewhat underwhelmed come the end credits. Superior video and very good audio leave the disc an easy purchase for fans and the film is certainly worth checking out.
Nocturnal Animals is available on Digital download, Blu-ray and DVD now, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
You can buy Nocturnal Animals on Blu-ray here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £12.99
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