Release Date(s)2013 (August 6, 2013)
Studio(s)Universal Studios Home Entertainment
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: B-
The Place Beyond the Pines is the third film from director Derek Cianfrance, who previously made Blue Valentine. A summary of the plot of this film would be a little overbearing, due to the fact that the film takes place over three different periods of time with different characters. What the plot boils down to is this: in a small town in New York, the actions of a former circus motorcyclist-turned bank robber and a morally-confused policeman take their toll on the people around them, but most importantly, their offspring.
To be honest, I didn’t care much for the film upon my initial viewing of it. I immediately found it disjointed without a completely clear focus on what themes it was trying to bring up or what ideas it was trying to get across. In actual fact, it probably would have worked better as a novel in that regard. But having seen it again, and not feeling overburdened by its nearly 2 1/2 hour running time, things were a little smoother the second time around. The theme that it seemed to be following was that violence potentially begets violence, even through a bloodline or just simple circumstances. Now I haven’t seen Blue Valentine, so I have no basis for comparison when it comes to his previous work (as of this writing), but if Derek Cianfrance wanted me to get more emotionally-invested in the proceedings then a tighter structure and a more concrete and satisfying ending would probably have yielded more positivity from me. It feels like it meanders for a lot of its running time before getting to some sort of point, and because of its structure, it happens multiple times with different characters, so no real investment occurred on my part. It’s also a film that doesn’t have a satisfying outcome for its characters or its story, which is a shame. The performances are good, but the overall theme of the story needed to be a little more hammered down. Instead it feels like it’s just waving in the breeze. I’m not saying that it has to be translucent, but it does have to be just a little more on the nose for this kind of film, and I believe a tighter structure would have helped.
Despite my negative criticism, The Place Beyond the Pines is definitely wonderful to look at. It’s very well-shot, makes use of on-location work to its benefit and has some very effective scenes. I’m not saying that the entire film is effective, but that some of its individual moments are. Both Ryan Gosling’s and Bradley Cooper’s characters have some very effective and emotionally-connecting moments (as well as Dane DeHaan’s character), but they never seems to be in service of the film as a whole to me. The film’s disjointedness and length are its greatest weaknesses. Despite being beautifully-shot (discounting the unnecessary shaky cam shots) and well-acted, the ultimate goal and overall theme of the film was lost on me at the time. It’s a good film aiming to be a great film, but never quite succeeds. But that’s one fellow’s opinion.
No matter what misgivings I have about The Place Beyond the Pines as a film itself, there are certainly none to be had when it comes to its debut on Blu-ray. Shot on film, this transfer is spectacular. The film carries a somewhat muted color palette to hide the process a bit (as well as to set the tone of the piece, I’m sure), but also a very healthy level of film grain that looks very film-like. Skin tones and textures look great and fine detail is abundant. Blacks are very deep and both contrast and brightness are perfectly balanced. I may have spotted some minor crush, but nothing to get worked up about as it was hardly noticeable. The film’s soundtrack, which comes on a single English 5.1 DTS-HD track, has a very realistic feel to it for the most part. Dialogue is always audible and clear, but also reflects the nature of the film and the environments that it takes place in. Sound effects, including abundant ambience, are handled well, as is Mike Patton’s score. There’s plenty of deep bass moments, and the overall soundtrack is quite enveloping. It’s never out to impress you or show off, but it sucks you in with the proper level of surround activity that you want from a film like this. Subtitles are included for those who need them in English SDH, Spanish and French.
The extras that have been included are brief but welcome. First there’s an audio commentary with Derek Cianfrance, a set of deleted and extended scenes, the very short Going to The Place Beyond the Pines featurette, previews, and an insert with Ultraviolet and Digital Copy options. The DVD is identical but with an English 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack instead. So it’s very short and sweet.
When it comes to my critique of the film itself, people looking in can take what I’ve said with a grain of salt. The response to The Place Beyond the Pines has been an overwhelmingly positive one, and that’s fine. A film like it deserves some praise. We don’t get too many films of its ilk nowadays without them being heavily watered down, so I commend it for that. It just wasn’t up to my personal tastes. For those that love it, picking up the Blu-ray of the film is a no-brainer.
- Tim Salmons