The Giver Blu-ray Review
Some actors stumble across a property (usually a book or a play) that they fall in love with and, with that passion burning, try to turn it into a film. Kirk Douglas felt that way about “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” After starring in the play of the same name in 1963 Douglas tried for a decade to have the story made into a film. Eventually he found himself too old to play the lead character of McMuphy and sold the rights to his son, Michael who, with Saul Zaentz, cast Jack Nicholson in the role and brought the film to the screen in 1975, winning five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Jeff Bridges felt the same as Kirk Douglas when he came across the novel “The Giver.” Bridges bought it with the idea of directing his father, Lloyd, as the title character. In fact, so enamored of the novel, Jeff Bridges actually “made” the film, on video, at his home, casting his family in various roles. Sadly, Lloyd Bridges passed away in 1998 so, when the film was finally put before the camera, it was son Jeff taking on the title role. His passion for the project shows in his performance, one of many fine ones in the film.
In the future, our world is perfect. There is no war. No famine. No crime. Everyone treats each other like an extended member of the family, In fact, there are no last names. Should you errantly offend someone you just need to say “I apologize,” and your apology is readily accepted. As we meet Jonas (a well-cast Brenton Thwaites) he is about to turn 18, along with his good friends Fiona (Odeya Rush) and Asher (Cameron Monaghan). With their families they attend a yearly ceremony that not only will give these youngsters their future job but will also make decisions for many of the other citizens. Newborns are given a first name and assigned to a family unit (one of the “jobs” available is “birther”). Juveniles are picked for schools. And while Jonas and others his age head off to their future, the elderly citizens are “retired” and presumably sent off to live out their autumn years in peace. If you’re familiar with LOGAN’S RUN and “carousel” you know what that means. While Fiona and Asher are given assignments, when the assembly ends Jonas is left alone on the stage, having apparently been passed over. He is later informed that he has been picked to be the “receiver of memories.” Which leads him to the Giver (Bridges).
A very intriguing story, THE GIVER begins in a sharp black and white, as all emotion has pretty much vanished from the world. Jonas begins his training and is first introduced to happy memories…music and art. As Jonas’ training continues, he (and by way of him, the audience) begin to see colors as items as ordinary as apples are given new meaning. Jonas enjoys his training but is constantly questioning the Giver about the previously chosen “receiver,” a young girl who disappeared a decade ago, shortly after getting the assignment. Warned by the Chief Elder (Streep) to take Jonas’ training slowly, things go well until the Giver accidentally shares with Jonas the visions of war. As images of Vietnam, and the pain and suffering that battle extracts, rush into his head Jonas is horrified. Truly the world could never have been like this. As he begins to question things more and more he begins to realize why the previous “receiver” ran away.
I haven’t read the Lois Lowry book so I’m not sure how faithful to it the film is. I’ve heard mixed things from friends who have read it so let me explain it to you in movie terms. Think LOGAN’S RUN meets THE TRUMAN SHOW and you’ve got a good idea what to expect. If that mash-up sounds good to you then, by all means, give THE GIVER a look.
Video: Presented in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the film is muted and softly focused during the black and white sequence and sharp and colorful as emotions begin to be released.
Audio: Presented in DTS-HD 5.1 the sound is similar to the video. Voices are soft and muted (but clear) early on while your speakers get a great workout as the past is revealed.
A fun plethora of extras make this disc a must have.
Highlights from the Original Script Reading Featuring Lloyd Bridges (39:46): A passionate Jeff Bridges gathers his family around for a spirited reading of an early script. If you loved Lloyd Bridges as I did (since “Sea Hunt”) it’s a treat seeing him again.
Making “The Giver:” From Page to Screen (21:41): Twenty years in the making, the process taken to make “The Giver” is explained in detail.
Extended Scene (9:23): Entitled “Jonas’ Harrowing Journey,” its inclusion is not missed.
Press Conference with Filmmakers and Cast (35:30): Taking place in New York this past August, a great Q&A with cast members (including Bridges, Streep, Thwaites and Taylor Swift), director Phillip Noyce and the book’s author, Lois Lowry.
“Ordinary Human” – OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder (2:43): The guitarist/lead singer of OneRepublic talks about a song on the soundtrack that he contributed.
Author Lois Lowry on “The Giver” (3:35): Lowry talks about events that helped shape her stories and what, if she had the chance, she might have changed.
Study Guide: As a popular Young Adult novel, “The Giver” is often assigned reading in school. This helps teachers and students as highlighted scenes from the book are available on the disc for comparison.