Winter’s Tale Blu-ray Review
“What if, once upon a time, there were no stars in the sky at all? What if the stars are not what we think? What if the light from afar doesn’t come from the rays of distant suns, but from our wings as we turn into angels?”
This hokey monologue carries on for a bit more, suggesting time and distance are not what they appear and that magic is all around us. We know right from the start, even having never read the source novel, just what sort of movie WINTER’S TALE will be.
The movie opens in 1895 but soon jumps to 1916 (and, later, 2014), with thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) running from the hired men of Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). His life is saved when he comes across a white horse who, yes, can fly, and who, yes, is his guardian angel. Peter decides he’ll steal enough to get him by while he hides out.
He meets Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay, who played Lady Sybil on DOWNTON ABBEY), a pretty young woman with tuberculosis being cared for by her father (William Hurt) and who reveals herself as the monologist when she tells a visitor, “The sicker I become, the more clearly I can see that everything is connected by light.” It’s her home that Peter breaks into and her that Peter falls in love with.
WINTER’S TALE is a story of good and evil, with a charming criminal (good) evading the grip of a dangerous crime boss (evil). In case the point wasn’t clear enough, good rides a white horse and evil rides a black one.
This adaptation of Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel wants so badly to trigger that childish wonder that comes with the genre. In a way, it does, but only because the story, characters and ideas—mythical creatures, magical stars, miracles, true love—are so obvious and recycled. Much of this stems from Helprin’s words, but writer/director Akiva Goldsman is also to blame (and not just for falling in love with the foolish dialogue). Helprin’s novel is a sprawling work that would be difficult for many to tackle, but Goldsman, making his directorial debut (his notable previous credits include Fox’s FRINGE, I AM LEGEND and A BEAUTIFUL MIND, for which he earned an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay), shows his skills in directing actors and weaving a coherent story lack.
WINTER’S TALE is a contrived and self-important work that insists its audience come out of the theater pondering who in their lives makes up at least one of the stars in the night sky. This is an absurd demand and too much in the spirit of what a child’s mother would tell them what happens when grandma dies.
The finer aspects of the movie are the technical ones, which actually serve in creating the look and feel of a fairytale: Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography, which adds a dreamy atmosphere, and Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score, which is delicate and appropriate.
The supporting cast also includes Jennifer Connelly, Eva Marie Saint and Will Smith.
WINTER’S TALE BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This is a wonderful high-definition transfer that shows off Caleb Deschanel’s excellent cinematography. The image is clean throughout, while black levels are deep and details/textures are strong.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 The audio transfer is also quite nice and features clear dialogue and a pristine-sounding score by Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson-Williams.
WINTER’S TALE: A Timeless Love (6:08): Director Akiva Goldsman, Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay and more discuss the themes, story and more of WINTER’S TALE.
Characters of Good and Evil (9:14): The roles of good and evil in the story are touched upon.
Additional Scenes (12:08): There are 12 here, which can only be viewed as a whole. They are: “Peter’s Parents Sail Him Off to New York – Extended,” “How Long You Been Doin’ This? – Extended,” “Athansor Breaks Free – Deleted,” “I’d Snap Your Bones and Eat Your Eyes – Deleted,” “Peter Visits Humpstone John – Extended,” “Themes Are Thieves – Extended,” “Peter and Isaac Penn Discuss New Years – Deleted,” “Yes, Baby – Deleted,” “We Have to Stop the Treatments – Extended,” “This One’s Personal – Extended,” “Abby is Saved – Deleted” and “Sometimes We Are Saved – Deleted.”