One of the most criminally overlooked gems of 2012
Looking back to the future
This movie has nothing to do with time-travel, and everything to do with being stuck in the past.Made on a shoestring budget of less than a million, Safety Not Guaranteed wooed critics across the festival circuits, and then disappeared without a trace. Made and released in 2012 – with an extremely limited release in the UK – it’s taken well over a year for the film to finally hit home formats this side of the pond.
Which is a great shame.
With charming and authentic performances from a quartet of relatively fresh new faces, and a witty and suitably cynical script perfectly tailored for the modern generation, this is one of those movies which manages to tell a tale of rose-tinted retrospect and soul-searching without either the wannabe weighty baggage of the average drama, or the saccharine-sweet sentiments of the average comedy-drama.Much like the fantastic little indie sci-fi Monsters – which was also far more about characters than aliens – Safety Not Guaranteed cleverly utilises the intriguing initial plot device of a bunch of amateurish journalists attempting to debunk a supposed eccentric ‘time-traveller’ to allow us access to our own deepest secrets and perhaps even some of our deepest regrets, at once highlighting the tragedy of what could have been whilst also showing us that often there was nothing to regret at all, and – with a little bit of simple acceptance – we would probably be far happier with our current station in life, rather than always reflecting on the grass that is greener.
Offering wonderfully honest insight without the usual cloying saccharine-sweet-sentiments you often find in these kinds of features, Safety Not Guaranteed was one of the most overlooked films of 2012, so you should give it a shot and see if it sneaks its way into your heart, and stays with you beyond the closing credits to leave a warm feeling of hope and in-the-light-of-day realisation.
Disappointing VisualsReleased a whopping 14 months after its US counterpart, you’d have been forgiven for assuming that this ‘new’ title was simply never going to come out in the UK. Still, there could have been a silver lining. The US Blu-ray was surprisingly disappointing, plagued by digital defects that ticked all of the boxes that you didn’t want ticked – Banding? Blocking? Excess noise? Black crush? Overt edge enhancement? You don’t really want any of these issues to be applicable on a movie you’re watching, let alone all of them. So, in the year and a half that they had since the film was released theatrically, perhaps they decided to do a better job on the UK version. Nope.
Certainly not universally bad, the biggest problems with the video, rendered with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, appear to emanate from the digitally-shot source. The reality is, however – particularly having seen this feature theatrically – that the irregularities and inconsistencies found on its home format release are considerably more prominent than they should be.
Beyond the sometimes decent clarity and occasionally impressive external shots; the sporadically welcome detailed skin textures and clothing weaves; and the subtle background tics, there’s a wavering, faltering image whose stability seldom lasts longer than a few seconds, let alone minutes. Outdoor sequences slowly drift out of focus; edges start to look frustratingly jagged; and noise fluctuates irreconcilably from one scene to the next. When you should be enjoying the lush, vibrant greens of the woods, or the bright skies of the coastal shots, you’ll more often find yourself waiting for the next problem to appear and ruin your enjoyment.
There are nicer moments and the issues aren't dominant, but they still leave a lasting impression and take away from the experience.
Decent AudioThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack – as well as its marginally inferior LPCM 2.0 alternative – is a far more satisfactory presentation of the material, rendering the admittedly limited aural elements in a solid, stable fashion, defined by pleasing ambience, warm music and clear dialogue. The dialogue remains consistently coherent, largely dominating – and emanating from – the frontal array, and riding high atop the rest of the track. Effects are quite localised and restrained, with some nice natural flourishes in the piece coming across – crashing waves, car sounds, forest wildlife etc. etc. – but very few standout moments, if any really. Music remains a welcome element, however much it is prepared to sit in the background and merely come out to play when it’s specifically required.
Solid audio is welcome but doesn't really make up for the video.
Expectedly Limited ExtrasIt’s not as if the US disc was packed with extras – it only had a couple of Featurettes – but it only adds insult to injury that, not only has the long-delayed UK release not improved on the video front, but it hasn’t even bothered including the extras from the US counterpart (let alone added new ones), remaining a bare bones disc but for the movie’s original theatrical trailer.
Enjoyment GuaranteedThe quirky indie drama Safety Not Guaranteed predictably went overlooked not just on its theatrical release, but on its long overdue home formats bow too, with both those ambivalent towards anything lacking a reasonable budget and also those put off by the misleading way in which it has been promoted as a sci-fi turning their noses up at this wonderful little character-driven gem.
This UK Region B-locked Blu-ray release doesn’t help further the cause, with disappointingly flawed video and zero extras, elements which are simply not compensated for by a solid audio track. The film’s recommended, the release is not.
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