Ain’t Them Bodies Saints Blu-ray Review
Partners-in-crime Bob Muldoon and Ruth Guthrie walk through the fields of Texas, her a few steps in front of him. She suspects he’s planning on ditching her to go solo. He would never; he loves her madly, even more so with a baby on the way.
Sometime later, Bob (Casey Affleck, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD) and Ruth (Rooney Mara, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO)—with a family name no doubt lifted from the folk singer—are holed up in an abandoned farmhouse. It’s there where the law catches up and engages the couple in a shootout. Halfway through, Ruth admits, “I think I shot someone.” Bob takes the blame and the prison sentence with it.
Bob longs to be with Ruth so he can feel her skin instead of write letters. So he does what any jailbird with two girls at home and half an ounce of clever in his brain would do: he busts out. And so he begins his long journey back home. That’s when Bob’s friend Sweeter (Nate Parker, RED HOOK SUMMER), Ruth’s neighbor Skerritt (Keith Carradine, Robert Altman’s NASHVILLE) and an officer who took a bullet (Ben Foster, 3:10 TO YUMA) enter the picture.
AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS is Texas native David Lowery’s third feature, after 2005’s DEADROOM and 2009’s SAINT NICK. (He also has a string of short films to his credit and edited Shane Carruth’s challenging UPSTREAM COLOR.) He was undoubtedly inspired at least in part by Terrence Malick (although he never tries to rip him off) and, likely, Arthur Penn’s BONNIE & CLYDE. But AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS isn’t a hybrid; it is a fresh vision. Here is a filmmaker who can make the setting and era feel real—open your nostrils and maybe you’ll be able to smell the dust being kicked up.
A lot of the credit for authenticity goes to Affleck and Mara. They not only nail their accents, but capture just what their characters might be feeling or thinking in their respective territories. Bob is a determined man in a quiet chase, while Ruth is a conflicted woman with another man a bit too close, and both actors bring to the screen so much that the dialogue may not even suggest. Adding to the atmosphere are cinematographer Bradford Young (PARIAH), production designer Jade Healy (THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL) and costume designer Malgosia Turzanska (THE BRASS TEAPOT).
AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS, which played at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, is a terrific film that lays out very little but offers so much. While one should be careful to draw too many comparisons to Malick, it seems fair to say that if TO THE WONDER felt like the master parodying himself, then AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS is a warm breeze to stand in for the disappointment. Lowery is the sort of natural and precise filmmaker to get excited about, like Malick was in the ‘70s and David Gordon Green and Jeff Nichols were the 2000s.
AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS looks very good in this high-definition transfer that highlights the work of the production designer, art director and cinematographer. While the transfer does have a rather soft look to it throughout, this only enhances the feel of the film.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. For the most part, AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS is a quiet film, with a stringy soundtrack and soft-spoken dialogue. Those aspects come through nicely, though, as do the bullets when they’re occasionally fired.
ST. NICK (1:24:44): David Lowery’s second feature, about two runaway children, shows the director developing his style and is a pretty solid film in its own right. A worthwhile addition to this release.
Untitled Ross Brothers Documentary (13:22): Bill and Turner Ross (TCHOUPITOULAS) visit the set of AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS and film what they see.
Behind the Scenes (4:48): Interviews (with David Lowery, Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck) and clips are used to promote AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS.
Deleted Scenes (8:59): There are three here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Diner,” “Copper Thieves” and “Addendum.”
The Lights (3:32) is a music video featuring a song by Keith Carradine.