The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Warner - 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 123 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English/Spanish/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, Vera Farmiga, CCH Pounder, Jimmy Bennett, Aryana Engineer
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Music by: John Ottoman
Written by: David Leslie Johnson
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: October 27, 2009
"There's something wrong with Esther"
Tragedy seems to follow nine-year-old Esther. She was orphaned in her native Russia. Her last adoptive family perished in a fire and Esther barely escaped. Now the Coleman family has adopted her, and life is good. Until a classmate takes a serious fall from a slide. Until an orphanage nun is battered to death. And until Esther's new mom wonders if that tragic fire was an accident. From Dark Castle Productions comes Orphan, bringing stunning new twists to the psychological thriller and locking audiences in a tightening vise of mystery, suspicion and terror. You'll never forget Esther. So sweet, so intelligent, so creative, so disturbed.
I went to see Orphan when it was released in theaters earlier this year. The evil child/bad seed theme has been done before and this one looked to have promise. Kate and John Coleman ( Farmiga and Sarsgaard) are well to do and have two children, Daniel (Bennett) and Max (Engineer). The family as a whole has dealt with their share of familial issues. Kate suffered a miscarriage of their third child and developed a drinking problem afterward. This lead to near tragedy when Max, who was born with an almost complete hearing loss, nearly drowned in a pond while Kate lay intoxicated in the house. John had an affair years ago which Kate only recently found out about and Daniel is a typical preteen adolescent who is on the rebellious side. Kate still feels the yearning for another child and the couple moves to adopt a girl from a local orphanage run my nuns. They meet Esther and are immediately struck by her charm. What they don't realize (at least early on) is that Esther is a master manipulator who determines how best to endear herself to those around her which works to lull them into a false sense of security. She then goes to work to determine how best to infiltrate the family dynamic and use it to weave her web of evil.
Orphan is more of a psychological thriller than horror film. The first two acts are solid as it sets up the characters and skillfully lures you in as it slowly exposes Esther's dark and sinister nature without revealing the truth behind it. The story builds nicely and provides a good level of suspense as the situation begins to escalate within the Coleman home. The third act falls prey to convenient contrivances and formulaic plot points that in and of themselves aren't harmful to the story but tend to negate the film's well executed opening. It does have a nice little surprise regarding Esther's past but unfortunately the downslide continues right up until the ending. Make no mistake that Orphan's strengths make it entertaining nonetheless. Chief among them is the invigorating and oft chilling performance of Isabelle Fuhrman in the title role. Vera Farmiga also gave a noteworthy performance as the troubled and eventually tormented Kate Coleman. I thought that both Bennett and newcomer Aryana Engineer were also credible in their respective roles. The script and direction were on par with other above average films in this genre. I think it would be fair to say that Orphan is a decent thriller/horror film. It features an excellent performance by Isabelle Fuhrman, a fair level of suspense, and a nice twist that you probably won't see coming.
The rating is for disturbing violent content, some sensuality and 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:
Orphan comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate 1.5 mbps.
This is a high quality encoding that translated the film's elements with aplomb and appeared to mimic its theatrical presentation. The 1.85:1 framed video is exquisitely detailed with delineation that provides a transparent perspective when looking at objects and people onscreen. Images had a near infinite level of dimension that was impressive. Colors were intentionally muted but overall tonal balance remained consistent throughout. Fleshtones appeared devoid of warmth and were slightly ashen which coincided with the films limited chromatic saturation. Contrast was strong without overcooking brightly lit scenes and washing out whites. Blacks were noise free with deep highlights and excellent dynamic range. Shadow detail was strong and enhanced detail perception in low/uneven light which offered appreciable depth of field during the various low level scenes that take place in the dark contemporary style home featured in the story. The video has a pristine and filmic quality that at times looked offered superlative imagery. The high resolution Dolby TrueHD audio had excellent tonal quality and revealing detail. Dialogue was articulately reproduced through the center channel and maintained a position of prominence within the front soundstage. This wasn't an aggressive surround mix but when applied the surround channels created an immersive atmosphere that helped build suspense while driving the film's elements. Front and rear channel imaging was excellent as off camera sounds and spatial cues mated perfectly with the events transpiring onscreen. Dynamics range was notable (listen to the scene where Esther throws the tantrum in the restroom stall) and although there wasn't frequent use of deep bass, when present it resonated with punctuated authority that energized the room.
- (HD) Behind the scenes: Mamas little devils and evil kids - 15 minute featurette
- Additional footage - 4 deleted scenes plus alternate ending
- WB BD-Live
- Digital Copy Bonus Disc - A standard definition version of the film that can be downloaded from a compatible PC/Mac to a portable media playback device
Orphan is a very decent psychological thriller that gives us a tangibly sinister character in Esther, whose dark side is eerily portrayed by relative newcomer Isabelle Fuhrman. Conceptually speaking the story isn't original but I found it involving. It starts out stronger than it finishes however there is enough suspense, solid turns by the cast and a neat little twist ending to keep things interesting. Warner has done an excellent job with its presentation on Blu-ray disc. It looks and sounds great while mimicking its theatrical presentation. The bonus features include a short featurette where the cast/crew discuss Orphan (with behind the scenes footage) and its comparison to other bad seed style films, a few appropriately deleted scenes/ unused alternate ending and BD-Live access/Digital Copy. If you're a fan this disc is worth picking up otherwise it makes for a good popcorn flick rental on a rainy night.
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