Descendants, The

  • Reviewed by: Barrie Maxwell
  • Review Date: Jun 11, 2012
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Director

Alexander Payne

Release Date(s)

2011 (March 13, 2012)

Studio(s)

Fox Searchlight (20th Century Fox)

Review

One of 2011's best films was The Descendants - a film well-recognized for the fact with numerous award nominations, if few of the major rewards. For example, a total of five Academy Award nods for Best Picture, Directing, Actor, Film Editing, and Adapted Screenplay only resulted in success in the latter category - a shame and disappointment indeed.

The film documents the efforts of Matt King (George Clooney) who must wrestle with the future development of a pristine stretch of Hawaiian land that had been in his family for years. Against the backdrop of a saga of family issues that seem overwhelming (relatives that are looking to cash in on the land, his own failing marriage, his wife dangerously close to death in a coma due to a boating incident, difficult relationships with his two daughters), King's task seems almost insurmountable. The film could have descended into unremitting depression, but it possesses such a wealth of humanity and sparkles with such wit and warm that it draws the viewer along on an unapologetic "high" throughout. The film comes from the celebrated director of Sideways, Alexander Payne, and he maintains brilliant emotional control of a story that could easily have gotten maudlin and out of control in the hand of someone less assured. In his task, he is strongly aided by a suite of strong acting performances, principally those of Clooney and three young performers playing his 2 daughters (Shailene Woodley, new-comer Amara Miller) and the older one's boyfriend (Nick Krause) who grows in stature significantly as a reliable character during the story. Robert Forster has an impressively effective turn also as the father of King's dying wife. The Descendants is available on Blu-ray from Fox in a 2.40:1 image that really makes one sit up and take notice. Image clarity is unrelentingly strong, delivering in terms of both the beauty of the Hawaiian locations and the sharpness of interior sets and character facial features. Colour fidelity is excellent, black levels are deep, and there is no evidence of any untoward digital manipulation at all. On the audio side, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is equally impressive. Dialogue is always strong and clear and there is a noticeably ambient sound field evident constantly when it should be present whether scenes are indoor or out. French and Spanish 5.1 DD sound tracks and English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also provided. The supplements consist of about a dozen featurettes on cast, crew, and production aspects; three music videos; and the theatrical trailer. A separate DVD copy is also included. Very highly recommended.

- Barrie Maxwell

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