Ralph Potts reviews this WWII drama based on true events that tells the account of the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, Antonina and Jan Zabinski, who helped save hundreds of people and animals during the German invasion.
The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Universal – 2017
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 126 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Spanish DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Michael McElhatton, Daniel Bruhl
Directed by: Niki Caro
Music by: Harry Gregson-Williams
Written by: Angela Workman based on the book by Diane Ackerman
Region Code: A,B,C
Release Date: July 4, 2017
In 1939 Poland, working wife and mother Antonina Żabińska (portrayed by Ms. Chastain) became a hero to hundreds. Antonina and her husband Jan (Mr. Heldenbergh) care for animals at the Warsaw Zoo and have raised a family in an idyllic existence. Their world is overturned when the country is invaded by the Germans and they are forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed zoologist (Mr. Brühl). To fight back on their own terms, the Żabińskis risk everything by covertly working with the Resistance and using the Zoo’s hidden passages to safeguard human life.
Based on the novel by Diana Ackerman, The Zookeeper’s Wife is a fact based period drama that tells the story of Antonina and Jan Zabinska, two devoted and talented (gentile) zookeepers living in Warsaw Poland, who find themselves thrust into a world of secrets, life altering risks, and personal conflict, when they opt to come to the aid of hundreds of refugee Jews, after the Nazi invasion. Working together, yet apart, they struggle against the constant fear of discovery, as they develop methods of bringing refugees out of the Warsaw Ghetto, hiding them in their zoo compound, or facilitating a means of smuggling them out of Warsaw. All directly under the nose of the ever-watchful German army.
I am sure that there are many stories of people like the Zabinska’s. We have seen them brought to the big screen and most have a common theme, with this one being no different. I haven’t found a story like this that hasn’t been engaging, and The Zookeeper’s Wife continues in that vein. There is little here that we haven’t seen before in terms of thematic context, the escalation of tension, and the dramatic elements that prove emotive and stirring. The development of the narrative and characters is tantamount to underscoring the film’s associative impact, which is its strength, given its fact-based roots.
I predominantly enjoyed the flow of the story, and the excellent performances by the ensemble cast. I think where it came up a bit short was in the lack of a truly definitive villain. There is one of sorts, but he never really feels like a threat which impacts the suspense, which is a vital element given the nature of what was occurring. Honestly, that is a rather small nit to pick, in an otherwise entertaining, albeit, formulaic, drama/biopic, that tells an important story that has historical significance.
The rating is for thematic elements, disturbing images, violence, brief sexuality, nudity and smoking.
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 effects:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialog Reproduction:
- DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element):
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black Level/Shadow Detail:
- Color Reproduction:
The Zookeeper’s Wife comes to Blu-ray Disc from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 34 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.6 Mbps.
This is a solid high definition video presentation from Universal. Images are resolved with appreciable detail that reveals plenty of discernible texture during close up camera shots. The exterior pans of the locations depicted in the story are clearly rendered while offering lucid long range visual acuity that allows the physical structure of buildings, streets and objects in backgrounds to be discernible. The film doesn’t utilize an extensive chromatic palette, but tonal balance is on the money, which leaves colors looking quite natural and pleasing. Fleshtones are on the pale side, but appear lifelike in depiction. White and black levels are fairly well-balanced which provides detailed whites, and slightly elevated, but stable blacks.
The DTS-HD Master Audio sound mix is perfectly suited to the source material. Dialog is rendered clearly with good intonation and average room penetration. The bulk of the presentation is handled by the front three channels. Imaging and directional spacing is excellent as soundstage pans are seamlessly integrated. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music score is reproduced over the surround platform with the front channels containing the orchestrated instrumentation and the rear channels providing ambient extension. The orchestrated elements are clear, sibilant free and dynamically satisfying. Bass response is held to the upper registers and surround sound activity is limited to subtle venue replication via atmospheric ambient extension and occasional discrete sound placement that effectively supports the events transpiring onscreen. This is the case in all but the air raid attack and brief battle sequenece where the soundstage broadens and the application of low frequency effects produce room shaking bass that rumbles with palpable authority.
- 6 Deleted Scenes
- The Making of The Zookeeper’s Wife – 7 minute featurette
- The Zabinska Family – 5 minute featurette
- Bonus DVD
- Digital HD Copy
Based on the novel by Diana Ackerman, The Zookeeper’s Wife is a fact-based period drama that tells the story of two people that put it on the line in order to help Jewish Refugees during the WWII Nazi invasion of Poland. It’s an entertaining and well enacted film that would have benefitted from a script that pulled less punches. It comes to Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring solid technical merits mated with a middling supplemental package. The Zookeeper’s Wife is a film worth seeing, especially for those that typically enjoy period based biopics of its type. I would say that it is deserving of a spot somewhere near the top of your Blu-ray rental queue.
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