Thelma & Louise: 20th Anniversary Blu-ray Review
The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 1080p transfer using the AVC MPEG4 codec and, despite the packaging, is a Region Free disc. It’s a shame, but this disc is unlikely to be picked up as a demo disc for the benefits of Blu-ray, it doesn’t have that wow factor associated with CG animated films, or the immediate pizzazz of the latest mega-budget block-buster, but what it does have is an absolutely stunning transfer.
We are talking about a twenty year old print here that has had no digital manipulation at all, the grain structure is intact, there is no DNR or edge enhancement and it reveals a level of detail not previously seen. Take a look at the freckles on Davis’ face, or the fine lines on Sarandon’s, look too at the scrubland or the desert sand, the rock strata of the many panoramic views of the American landscape; right from the fore to the middle to way off in the distance, each and everyone hold and edge. The print is noticeably softer for the first half hour, but this was always the case, once the girls start their adventure for real, the picture dramatically improves to signify the feeling of being alive and in focus.
Colours too follow the same path, in the beginning half hour they are somewhat under saturated, overly blue and muted, but once the girls hit the road the reds and oranges come into play and the pallet opens up – as the girls drop their make-up, their colour, the picture itself becomes more vivid and bold, including those scenes back in their old life, the police investigation, though they still retain the blue hue, only stronger. Take a look at the landscape shots, the colours of the desert and particularly the blues of the sky, so deep and natural it’s like looking at it for real.
Contrast and brightness are well set for the picture, this means that blacks are reasonably deep, but they are not absolute, more a very dark grey, this is especially true in the barroom scene in the beginning, again things improve after the half hour mark, take a look at the drive through the night-time desert, how grand and stark the scenery is highlighted against the black of night. Blacks are clean though with no additional noise to muddy them. I stress this is not a transfer problem, but a stylistic choice of the original print.
Digitally there were no compression problems whatsoever, there is absolutely no banding or posterization, grading is perfect and I’ve already stated that there is no edge enhancement and that there is a terrific organic grain structure to the image. Original print damage was limited to one or two white specks (literally) and you have to really be looking to see them. In all, this is one amazing picture, one to be savoured and enjoyed, each image deserves to be paused and adored; it’s top, top quality.
I concentrate on the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. On the whole the track is not overly immersive, most of the action takes place from the frontal array – the surrounds pipe up to add ambience for the most part, but also enjoy some decent surround effects such as barroom/cafe chatter, wind noise, road noise etc. There are some nice stereo effects from traffic noise to weather. Dialogue is handled by the frontal array, it sounds very natural and is clear and precise, only ever being slightly difficult to hear in rain and traffic as it would in real life. Bass is well placed, but never goes as low as the very best, and the only significant LF effect is with the truck explosion, which remains the best effect of the track, though the helicopter chase does come a close second. It is with the score, though, that the real immersion lies; whether it’s Zimmer’s wonderfully melancholic tunes, or the many soft rock tracks that pepper the score, all the speakers sing and really place you in the centre. I was very happy with this track, it's not quite a reference one, but remains very close.
- Audio commentaries
First audio commentary is with director Ridley Scott and anyone who has listened to any of his commentaries before will know what to expect. He is full of enthusiasm for his film and never afraid to talk about any short comings that occurred during the shoot. He starts off with a retrospective of his work up to that point and even talks a little about his early career before going on to talk about all aspects of the production from casting through to filming, editing and screening. He is rarely without something of interest to say and often goes off on tangents, but this just makes for an interesting discussion. The few gaps there are, are soon made up for with his anecdotal and technical chat.
Second audio commentary is with stars Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis and writer/producer Callie Khouri. The three of them get on very well and discuss plenty about the production, the idea, their interpretation of the parts and general anecdotal information. Surprising amount of gaps where the three just watch the film, but on the whole is a decent enough listen. Unfortunately both contain material duplicated in other areas of the disc.
- Thelma and Louise: The Last Journey – 59.43, SD
This monumental retrospective making of documentary is split into three chapters entitled Conception & Casting, Production & Performance and Reaction & Resonance that can be watched individually or all at once with the play all function. It pretty much covers everything you want to know about the making of the film, right from its inception through to release in the theatres and the reaction, both positive and negative it received. Each participant talks candidly about their experiences with the production and nearly everyone is interviewed. There is plenty of information given and you get the feeling that there was great fun had by all on the shoot. This was filmed for the films tenth anniversary and as such is a product of its time.
- Original theatrical featurette – 05.23, SD
Can be played with and without promotional narration! A very basic making of feature used primarily for marketing the movie upon its initial release – is horrendous quality.
- Deleted & Extended scenes – 40.19, SD
In his commentary Scott talks about how there was not much cut in the editing room aside from the usual nips and tucks to ease the flow .... forty minutes! I’d hate to see what he calls a lot. What we do have are a few minutes each of new scenes cut for pacing, as well as substantial extensions to existing scenes (principally those in the motel with Jimmy). What is nice is they are all presented (although in dubious quality) in chronological order and make up a funny kind of alternate take on what happens in the movie.
- Extended Ending – 3.42, SD
Can be played with or without Scott’s commentary and details his thoughts on why this ending, in which you see the car plunge down the canyon leaving no doubt to their fate, was too much of a downer concentrating on their death far more than on their lives – it was the correct choice to remove it.
- Multi-angle storyboards: The Final Chase – 4.38, SD
Look at the storyboarding and final product together on screen as it plays out that final scene.
- Music video – 4.28, SD
For Glenn Frey’s Part of You, Part of Me.
- Trailer and TV spots – 11.03, SD
A total of five trailers for the film’s initial release
Quite an extensive selection of extras, but unfortunately nothing new for this ‘Anniversary edition’ everything as presented is already available on previous DVD editions. A Shame.
It is rare when everything comes together to form a cohesive whole, particularly when making a film, but when it does something special is always the result. With Thelma & Louise, everything worked perfectly; Ridley Scott was at his creative peak and crafted a spectacular looking movie and also garnered the very best out of his assembled cast and got the most out of a script that managed to turn the Hollywood stereotypically male dominated road movie on its head to make icons out of these two female characters as they blazed their way across the American South. It is a perfect blend of action, comedy and character held together with a witty and engaging script telling a terrific story extremely well. It doesn’t get much better than this, and along with Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator remains as one of Scott’s best work.
As a Blu-ray package, Fox has delivered a quite stunning picture, near reference sound and a decent extras package, even if they’ve all been seen before, in what is a no brain upgrade from the old MGM DVD. It’s been twenty years, but Thelma & Louise are still riding strong.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £12.39
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