The Liberator Blu-ray Review
As the film begins we are told that, in his attempts to free his native South America from the rule of the Spanish, Simon Bolivar fought 100 battles and rode 70,000 miles on horseback, covering more land than Alexander the Great. But unlike the Macedonian King, Bolivar is there not to conquer, but to liberate.
A by-the-book history lesson (or revisionist history, depending on your knowledge of 19th Century Latin American politics), THE LIBERATOR tries, sometimes successfully, to share the legend that is Simon Bolivar. Played by Edgar Ramirez in a very strong performance, Bolivar is both hero and villain, almost a mythical figure whose goal, inspired by the United States and its successful release from the grasp of Great Britain, is to be known as “the George Washington of South America.” But his ideas are not always accepted, even by those closest to him.
Beautifully photographed and set among a few smashing set pieces, THE LIBERATOR is the obviously sanitized version of Simon Bolivar that I imagine little children all over South America learn. His long hair flowing, his eyes blazing, Simon Bolivar travels the countryside doing good deeds and righting wrongs. Which is an unusual path for someone born into affluence. We never learn why Bolivar has chosen, or follows, the path he has put himself on, only that he has ideas that he must explore.
I’m not sure how the characters in the film were laid out in screenwriter Timothy Sexton’s script, but Bolivar seems to be the only character fully developed. The rest of the cast are by-the-numbers: the lady love, the mentor, the friend who later betrays you but then realizes he has betrayed himself. All of these people appear, as if on cue, to help motivate Bolivar on to his next adventure. On the positive side, director Arvelo and cinematographer Xavi Gimenez have managed to capture the majesty and beauty of the continent at almost every step. The countryside is beautiful and you can almost get an idea of what Bolivar was trying to do. If not, watch the film for about 20 minutes. Like a good shampoo, the great man says something, does something, reacts. Rinse and repeat.
Ramirez’ fellow actors try their best to portray their characters strongly, but sadly they come across as well acted clichés. Only Valverde, as Bolivar’s sympathetic wife, Maria, manages to add something noticeable to the role.
Technically the film does a good job of suggesting the era in which the story takes place and the score, by composer Gustavo Dudamel, currently the musical director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. This is Dudamel’s, a Venezuelan, first film score, and he finds a way to compliment every scene musically. I certainly look forward to his next project.
If you are anyway at all aware of Simon Bolivar’s deeds, you may understand the message behind the film. If you’re not, no need to worry. You really won’t too much more at the end of the film than you did before you sat down.
Video: Presented in its original 2:35.1 aspect ratio, the video transfer here is well done. The period setting lends itself to a lot of dark battle scenes, but the picture comes across shaprly.
Audio: The soundtrack is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 in English and in Spanish in Dolby Digital 2.0. Both feature clean sound and well mixed music and audio effects.
Introduction by Gustavo Dudamel (1:10): A clip made for the Los Angeles Film Festival in which Dudamel, the film’s composer, introduces the film for the audience in attendance.
Making of Featurette (41:03): Nicely produced, this featurette is, in some ways, more informative about the film’s subject then the film itself/