The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Sony Classic Pictures - 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 97 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
Starring: Melissa Leo, Misty Upham, Charlie McDermott, Michael O'Keefe, Mark Boone Junior
Written & Directed by: Courtney Hunt
Music by: Peter Golub & Shahzad Ismaily
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: February 10, 2009
"Desperation knows no borders"
Life in Massena is as harsh and barren as the frigid landscape. In this bleak terrain, two hardened single mothers are trying to make lives for their children. Lila is a widowed Mohawk whose mother-in-law "stole" her newborn son a year ago. Ray is a mother of two whose gambling-addicted husband just left town with the down payment for their new trailer home. Faced with little opportunity to make ends meet, Ray and Lila embark on an illegal venture transporting immigrants into the U.S. across Mohawk territory. With the money for the down payment within Ray's grasp, the women are determined to make one last run. When circumstances spiral out of control, the two women must make life or death decisions based on their friendship and love for their children.
I was intrigued when I learned that the story in this film takes place in Massena NY and involves the Mohawk Reservation and of course the NY State Police. Those who know what my day job is can appreciate my interest in the authenticity of that aspect of the production. I have some experience with the Mohawks having been sent to Massena on several occasions in the early nineties when tension between them required a broader police presence in and around the reservation. The synopsis above summarizes this film quite well so I won't go into an in depth description. I was impressed with the vivid portrait that Writer/Director Courtney Hunt paints of life in the area. She took her time in establishing the plot's focus which is really quite simple. People in desperate times sometimes take drastic measures to alleviate financial burden. These two women from differing backgrounds are thrown together by chance and decide that when opportunity knocks you don't question it. The problem is that the opportunity requires them to commit illegal and potentially dangerous acts. Things get complicated during their last transport when they make a startling discovery that could result in life or death consequences. Melissa Leo is simply brilliant in her portrayal of a struggling and physically worn mother of two boys. There was never a single moment when I didn't believe that she was genuinely this character. The screenplay was perfectly paced as it drew upon the script's elements with deliberate storytelling that carefully built its case. The lone NY State Trooper featured in the film was played by Michael O'Keefe. They got the wearing of the uniform pretty close although the Stetson (hat) was the wrong color and the trousers had a rear pocket flap (blasphemy!). His interaction with them had some procedurally incorrect problems but they were something that probably only our members would notice. Actually I am just nitpicking as I thought that the NYSP was positively portrayed in the film.
Frozen River is a film about real people who have real problems that are not the kind that get resolved in the 97 minute runtime of a movie. There was a little bit of Hollywood drama sprinkled in but overall it offered a lucid, fly on the wall perspective of how poverty and desperation can lead people to make life changing decisions.
The rating is for language.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Frozen River comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 30 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 2 mbps.
This video presentation offers little in the way of highly polished, razor sharp images that resemble the best that high definition has to offer on Blu-ray but it seems to represent the film's elements well. Primary colors are tonally satisfying with deep reds and a cooler overall palette that works well against the film's winter backdrop. Complexions are texturally revealing with natural coloring that varies among the cast. Resolution is very good but softer definition leaves the long range and panning vista views of the cold landscapes appearing less firmly resolved. Close ups and mid level shots are more revealing of subtle delineation and resolvable texture but lack the clarity that enhances resolute perception. This is innate to the photography and seems apropos with respect to the somber mood of the film. Darker elements are rendered similarly which results in them appearing flat. Blacks are above average in depth but aren't gradationally rewarding. On several occasions (especially later in the film) scenes that were shot in low or uneven light exhibited digital noise in backgrounds. I wouldn't classify it as excessive but its presence was apparent. This disc may not boast video quality that is consistent with the better new release titles available on Blu-ray Disc but I think it conveys the overall visual perspective of Frozen River quite well.
This soundtrack is almost entirely driven by dialogue and the high resolution lossless Dolby TrueHD sound quality was excellent. The audio presentation offered a one dimensional frontal perspective that was highlighted by centrally focused dialogue which was presented with distinguishable intonation and requisite clarity that allowed even subtle changes in vocal inflection to be discernible. This same level of audible detail applied to the other elements present in the recording which conveyed them with stark realism that elevated fidelity.
- Commentary with Director/Writer Courtney Hunt and Producer Heather Rae
- (HD) Theatrical trailer
- BD-Live enabled
Frozen River is a strong, character driven film that features a stellar performance from Melissa Leo who has received several award nominations (including an Oscar) for her genuine portrayal of a struggling mother of two who faces trying times that result in desperate measures. She lives nearby and our community wishes her the best of luck. This Blu-ray presentation from Sony isn't of the highest order technically but it capably delivers the film's elements and appears to remain within the director's vision. This is a worthwhile film that probably doesn't have high replay value so I am highly recommending it as a rental.
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