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Won't Back Down (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109944&d=1210373692

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109943&d=1210373692

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 2012
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 121 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English/Spanish/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Oscar Issac, Rosie Perez, Holly Hunter
Directed by: Daniel Barnz
Music by: Marcelo Zarvos
Written by: Brin Hill & Daniel Barnz
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: January 15, 2013

"If you can’t beat the system….change it"

Film Synopsis:

Hard-working single mom Jamie Fitzpatrick (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is concerned that John Adams Elementary is letting her daughter down. Teaming with a caring teacher (Viola Davis) who wants the best future for her own son, she sets out to improve attitudes and elevate the school’s academic standards. Despite the odds, with courage, hope and persistence, the women just might prevail.

My Take:

Won’t back down is a drama that surrounds two determined women¬, one a teacher, with a “slow” (learning) son, one a single parent with a dyslexic daughter that look to transform their children's failing inner city school. Facing a powerful union and entrenched bureaucracy, they risk everything to make a difference in the education and future of their children.
The film is loosely based on the events surrounding the use of the parent trigger law in Sunland-Tujunga, Los Angeles, California in 2010, where several groups of parents attempted to take over several failing public schools. The Parent Trigger law, which was passed in California and other states in 2010, allowed parents to enforce administrative overhaul and overrule administrators in under-performing public schools if petitioned. If successful, petitions allow parents to direct changes such as dismissal of staff and potential conversion of a school to a charter school.

I am in agreement with the message that Won’t back down is sending in that there are inherent problems within our education system. In looking at the film as a dramatic work it’s a bit didactic with co-writer/director Daniel Barnz’s ideology smack in your face. The one sidedness with respect to the, us vs. them, tone which portrays the teachers union in a very negative light detracted from the ability to meaningfully derive the perspective necessary to become entrenched in the story. The focus rarely shifted from the two central characters and when it did there was little to glean other than mere propaganda in furtherance of the David and Goliath theme.

I tend to enjoy inspirational film’s especially those that are based on actual events/people. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t find aspects of Won’t back down to be uplifting and poignant. I also enjoyed the performances by Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Oscar Issac. I think that the film spends too much time on the soapbox and not enough time drawing us in with well developed/rounded characters. At the end of the day I found myself caring about the outcome but with only a cursory bond with the children featured in the story the impact was less emphatic. As far as rousing, melodramatic and well intentioned films go Won’t back down is a little heavy handed but with a heartwarming center that makes its shortcoming easier to forgive.

Parental Guide:

The rating is for thematic elements 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.**

Audio: 78

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109944&d=1210373692

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

Video: 84

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

Won’t back down comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 36 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.6 Mbps.

This is a pleasing high definition presentation that exhibits video quality that is consistent with a newer release film on Blu-ray Disc. There are aspects of this presentation that are adorned by a grainy, de-saturated bluish aesthetic, and sepia toned browns, beiges, and reds, that set the thematic tone intended by the filmmakers. It rarely makes for eye catching imagery but the results are pleasing. Depending on the lighting fleshtones can look a little bronzy or pallid but otherwise fall in line with the film’s visual elements. Contrast is spot on and blacks are fairly delineated and deep. Images are crisp and resolute with defining sharpness that provides appreciable dimension. The video is whistle clean and shows no deleterious signs of compression errors or video related anomalies.

This lossless DTS-HD Master Audio encoding readily handled the elements contained in this dialogue driven film. The presentation retained a front loaded perspective with well defined and clearly articulated dialogue that extended well into the room. Sounds and music were reproduced with refining clarity and appropriate dynamism. Surround activity was limited to rear channel spatial cues and occasional directional sounds. It was a fine match with the source material and never felt inadequate.

Bonus Features:

  • (HD) 6 deleted scenes with optional director commentary

  • (HD) A tribute to teachers – 3 minute featurette

  • (HD) The importance of education – 5 minute featurette

  • Audio commentary with director Daniel Barnz

  • (HD) Theatrical trailer

  • Ultraviolet Digital Copy

Final Thoughts:

Won’t back down is an inspirational melodrama with a poignant message about the importance of education. It’s not thoroughly satisfying and suffers from a didactic script and weak character base that dilutes its dramatic impact. Its heartwarming spirit and engaging performances by co-stars Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal help make its shortcomings easier to forgive. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring good overall high definition audio/video and bland bonus material that consists of a handful of deleted scenes, two brief featurettes and a director commentary track. For those that enjoy uplifting type films Won’t back down is worth a rental on movie night.


Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

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post #2 of 7
saw this at the theater, looking forward to seeing it on Blu ray. Great movie that is based on a true story. It's a movie every parent should watch...
post #3 of 7
This movie is anti-union propaganda underwritten by some crazy conservative millionaire. It should be noted it was the worst opening for a movie EVER.
post #4 of 7
Originally Posted by Bukley View Post

This movie is anti-union propaganda underwritten by some crazy conservative millionaire. It should be noted it was the worst opening for a movie EVER.

I'd like to see where you are getting your information that it was the worst opening movie EVER.
As far as your comment re: anti union propaganda is concerened, the movie was based on a true story.
post #5 of 7
Thanks for the review Ralph will keep an eye for this one.
post #6 of 7

'Won't Back Down' Box Office Is The Worst Opening Ever
post #7 of 7
also, from wikipedia:

Critics have contended that the film is an ideological vehicle of conservative activist Philip Anschutz and that the film is slanted to promote the parent trigger movement. Alexander Zaitchik, writing for Salon.com, described the movie as a "propaganda flick" which attacks teachers' unions. He argues that Walden Media are "linked at the highest levels to the real-world adult alliance of corporate and far-right ideological interest groups that constitutes the so-called education reform movement, more accurately described as the education privatization movement.

The only thing I got wrong is the guy funding it is a billionaire, not a millionaire.
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