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-   -   The Burning Plain (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review (https://www.avsforum.com/forum/187-official-avs-foruma-blu-ray-disc-reviews/1214405-burning-plain-blu-ray-official-avsforum-review.html)

Ralph Potts 01-07-2010 11:55 AM

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: Magnolia - 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 107 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-25
Encoding: VC-1
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger, John Corbett, Joaquim DeAlmeida, Danny Pino, Jennifer Lawrence, Tessa La, Brett Cullen
Written & Directed by: Guillermo Arriaga
Music by: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez & Hans Zimmer
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: January 12, 2010

"Love heals. Love absolves. Love burns"

Film Synopsis:

Academy Award winners Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger star in this romantic mystery about hope, redemption and second chances. Sylvia (Theron) is a woman on the edge whose cool, professional demeanor masks a deeply troubled, sexually charged storm within. When a stranger from Mexico confronts her with her mysterious past, she is launched into an emotional journey back to the defining moment of her life. Gina (Basinger) is a housewife trapped in a loveless marriage who finds solace and passion in an illicit affair. Though separated by time and great distances, these women find their lives linked by the forces of love and fate.

My Take:


The Burning Plain is a romantic drama that is told in stages that rotate back and forth through time. There are several sets of characters/stories that appear to be connected in some way but exactly how isn't revealed right away which adds an air of mystery. First there is Syliva, (Theron) she has an almost casual approach to intimacy, is involved in an affair with a married man, and has no qualms about sexual interludes with near strangers. She seems emotionally disconnected and extremely troubled. In Mexico, a young motherless girl, Maria (Tessa Ia), lives happily with her father and his best friend until a tragic accident changes it all. In the New Mexico border town of Las Cruces, two teenagers, Mariana (Lawrence) and Santiago (JD Pardo), find love in the aftermath of their parents' sudden deaths. In an abandoned trailer, a housewife, Gina (Basinger), embarks on a passionate affair that proves to be the catalyst which ultimately connects each character/story and sparks events that place them on a collision course with the explosive power of forbidden love.

This is a refreshing film from a conceptual standpoint. It is a multi-narrative drama where the seemingly unconnected past and present eventually intersect. The four elements featured in the story revolve around a central character, Sylvia, who is shrouded in mystery but ultimately acts as its lynchpin. Initially I found myself trying to figure out just exactly what was happening since the film jumps back and forth with no explanation. I connected some of the dots before they were revealed but there was still more to come once the entire scope of the plot is uncovered. The script provides a solid foundation for each of its elements which enable the audience to connect with the characters on a compelling level. Writer/director Guillermo Arriaga figuratively uses earth (affair), wind (father and young daughter), fire (young lovers), and water (Sylvia) to convey the visual style of each storyline as seen through the camera's lens. I thought this was an interesting and evocative approach that worked quite well. At its heart this is a film about inner pain, loss, hope, and redemption. It speaks to how events from our past can shape our future and ultimately affect the people we become. Lastly it points out that it is never too late for second chances. This is a stirring film that features a range of emotions and the cast handled their respective roles with aplomb. Charlize Theron is such a gifted actress. Her portrayal of Sylvia sold the character's contempt for herself as evidenced by her struggle to deal her past. I am not so sure that Kim Basinger was physically right for the role of Gina but I enjoyed her performance just the same. J.D. Pardo and Jennifer Lawrence were also commendable as the young couple struggling against adversity. While the story may be a bit melodramatic I appreciated its conceptual approach, message of hope, and tidy (although perhaps a bit too neatly wrapped) ending. It isn't a thoroughly fulfilling film but it makes for an entertaining genre entry for those who enjoy something a little different.

Parental Guide:

The rating is for sexuality, nudity, 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)

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

Audio: 82

  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373699

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

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699

Video: 84

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

  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373699

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373699

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

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699

The Buring plaincomes to Blu-ray from Magnolia HE featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 21 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 channel Master Audio that has an average bitrate of 2.6 mbps.

A variety of visuals are effectively used in this film to help set the tone/setting based upon the directions intended look of the scene and characters within it. The cinematography is beautiful. Colors can vary from being sullen and inanimate to vivid with warm vitality. Skin tones look wonderful with natural tonality and descriptive variation but this can also be scene dependent. Images onscreen are primarily detailed and sharp with strong depth of field and discernible texture. There are occasions where sharpness wavers however it appeared to be innate to the photograpy and I didn't find it to be objectionable. The video has stable contrast and deep blacks that provide excellent perceptibility during scenes shot at night or in lower lighting. The video has lucid definition which enhances dimensionality and makes for a satisfying viewing experience.

For a dialogue driven film I think this lossless audio soundtrack sounds quite good. High level detail and extended dynamic range combine to invigorate the sounds/effects during several sequences. Listen to the power and refined texture of the cascading water as it pounds against shore in the scene where Sylvia sits outside of the restaurant overlooking the ocean. It fills the soundstage in a seamless and enveloping fashion. Low level sounds such as a gentle breeze or the crackle of burning fire are clearly perceptible amidst the prominent elements within the sound mix. Dialogue is tonally descriptive and full bodied which adds depth and audible texture to voices. Being a film driven mostly by dialogue didn't afford this mix a lot of opportunities for active surround sound. Its use was primarily to extend the front soundfield and add dimension to the music score. The subwoofer piped in low frequency effects to give weight to the music and low end rumble during scenes like the one described the ocean.

Bonus Features:

  • The making of The Burning plain - 43 minutes

  • The music of The Burning plain - 15 minutes

  • (HD) HDNET: A look at The Burning plain - 4 minutes

Final Thoughts:

The Burning plain isn't a perfect film but it is an evocative one that is built upon a multi-narrative plot that engages audiences with a bit of mystery, romance, and intrigue while speaking to them about the complexities of life's decisions. I appreciated it for its strengths and forgave it weaknesses which allowed me to enjoy it. Magnolia HE consistently delivers quality high definition presentations on their Blu-ray releases and this is no exception. The bonus supplements aren't extensive and consist of a making of feature and another that looks at the film's music. Both are actually quite good and are time well spent if you like the film. If you're a fan this is easily worth picking up otherwise through it in your rental queue.


Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS20 1080p High Definition Front Projector (Calibrated by Jeff Meier)
Carada Precision Brilliant White 96" Screen
Anthem AVM50v THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-83 Universal disc/Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)
Philips TSU9400 Pro Series Touch Panel Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator
Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package

JamE55 01-07-2010 02:19 PM

Didn't even anticipate you were going to review this but glad you did! This is actually on my next list of que to purchase.

Having only seen the trailer it looked pretty good. I'll definitely be collecting this one. Certain plot of this movie reminded me of Unfaithful(illicit affair part).

Thanks for the great write up Ralph.


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