Blu-ray Review Drama

Truth in a Blu-ray Review: The Good Lie

December 28, 2014Ben MK

Lost and found...

Out of all the stories that emerged from the Second Sudanese Civil War, that of the so-called “Lost Boys of Sudan” — those thousands of children displaced after their families were slaughtered by militants — is one of the most heartbreaking. Some were forced to become child soldiers. Others made the harrowing journey by foot — across upwards of one thousand miles of harsh, unforgiving terrain — to seek refuge in Kenya. But for a lucky few, the hardship eventually gave way to hope, as dramatized in The Good Lie, when they were given a chance at a new life in the United States.


The Film The film is set in 2001 and revolves around four South Sudanese refugees — aspiring doctor Mamere (Arnold Oceng), his sister, Abital (Nyakuoth Wiel), the religious Jeremiah (Ger Duany) and their friend Paul (Emmanuel Jal) — who, after spending thirteen years at Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp, are selected to emigrate to the United States, as part of an International Rescue Committee program. Once stateside, however, Abital is separated from the rest of the tight-knit group and sent to live with a family in Boston, while Mamere, Jeremiah and Paul are rerouted to Kansas City, where they're introduced to Carrie (Reese Witherspoon), the employment agency worker tasked with finding them jobs.

Carrie soon realizes the magnitude of the cultural divide separating her from her new clients, as even the most basic aspects of everyday life in America — from telephones to pizza — are utterly foreign to them. Still, she’s determined to land them gainful employment, even if she has to enlist the help of her boss, Jack (Corey Stoll). After managing to get Mamere and Jeremiah jobs stocking the shelves at the local supermarket, and Paul a position on a factory assembly line, Carrie then turns her attention to reuniting Abital with her brother and her friends.

Penned by screenwriter Margaret Nagle (Boardwalk Empire), director Philippe Falardeau's (Monsieur Lazhar) film positions itself not just as a fish-out-of-water story — mining drama, as well as small amounts of humor, from Mamere, Jeremiah and Paul's struggle to adapt and adjust to their new surroundings — but also as a commentary on Western society, as seen through the eyes of outsiders. And though Witherspoon and Stoll receive top billing, it’s really Oceng, Wiel, Duany and Jal who are the real stars of the movie, as they're given the responsibility of shouldering the vast majority of the storyline’s emotional burden.

Thankfully, the four actors — two of whom were actually Lost Boys themselves — are up to the task; and the end result is a movie that entertains just as much as it educates, providing moviegoers with moments of drama and inspiration, while raising awareness for the plight of Sudanese refugees. The film also benefits greatly from scenes shot on-location in Africa, as well as in the actual Kakuma Refugee Camp. For though the storytelling is effective and fairly impactful, it's also a familiar Hollywood refrain. What will truly resonate with viewers is the reality that underpins the movie's fiction.

Audio/Visual Fidelity Although The Good Lie is, for the most part, a dialogue-driven drama, it nonetheless boasts an extremely competent A/V presentation on Blu-ray. The film’s early scenes, set in Sudan and Kenya, will surely strike viewers as the most impressive, with the detail, clarity and depth of color inherent in Ronald Plante's cinematography serving to showcase the natural landscape of Africa, from the rocks, sand and tall blades of grass to the beautiful sunset panoramas. As the story transitions to Kansas City, Missouri, the hi-def image retains its high quality appearance, with robust black levels, strong contrast and no sign of image defects to be found. Audio-wise, the disc’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is equally satisfying. Once again, the film’s early scenes provide the most bang for the buck, with the sound of helicopters and gunfire making the appropriate aural impact. Otherwise, the rest of the film’s soundstage — from subtle environmental effects such as the faint sound of insects buzzing in the background to the folk music, strings and haunting piano melodies of composer Martin Leon's score — is reproduced with absolute clarity and precision.

Special Features Warner’s Blu-ray release includes DVD And UltraViolet digital copies of the film, plus 31 minutes of HD special features. The Good Lie Journey is a 16-minute featurette that takes a look at the real-life story that inspired the film, as well as the cast, the director and the filmmakers’ dedication to telling the story as authentically as possible. Otherwise, the only other special feature on the disc is 15 minutes of Deleted Scenes, comprised of 15 scenes in total.

The Bottom Line Despite the star power of Reese Witherspoon, The Good Lie is really a modest film with modest aspirations — one that succeeds in bringing attention to the dire, real-life situation of Sudanese refugees by telling a story framed around four of them who, through perseverance and an indomitable spirit, are able to overcome incredible odds to build a better life for themselves. It’s an uplifting and inspirational film, and though the extras on Warner’s Blu-ray release may leave something to be desired, its superb audio and video definitely make it worth watching.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  

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