Blu-ray Review Drama

'The Beguiled' Blu-ray Review: Lust, caution, southern-style

October 9, 2017Ben Mk





FEATURE: 
Writer/director Sofia Coppola's latest begins with a haunting image. In the foreground, a young girl, and in the background, an expansive forest, its most distant trees shrouded in fog. The scene, set three months into the American Civil War, is eerily quiet, save for the faint echoes of intermittent cannon fire. As the main titles appear on-screen in a large pink font, the implication is both mysterious and alluring — a foreshadowing of things to come.


The Beguiled began life over half a century ago, as a 1966 novel by Thomas Cullinan, before first being brought to the big screen in the 1971 movie of the same name starring Clint Eastwood and directed by Don Siegel. Suffice to say, Coppola's contemporary, yet retro, take on the historically-rooted tale — that of a wounded Civil War soldier named John McBurney who's taken in by the residents of an all-girls seminary, only to find more than he bargained for — plays very much to her strengths as a filmmaker, and is unlike any of the versions that have come before.

Coppola jettisons several aspects of the source material, trimming the narrative focus down to John (Colin Farell), headmaster Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) and teacher Edwina Morrow (Kirsten Dunst), the three of whom form the bare-bones story's love triangle. Add to that the fact that the movie's trailer has already divulged all the twists, and, consequently, the experience of watching The Beguiled becomes less about the plot and more about the actors' performances. Fortunately, the latter will keep audiences spellbound, as Farrell, Kidman and Dunst (who are joined by Elle Fanning) cook up a powder keg of tension that more than makes up for the lack of surprise.

Otherwise, viewers don't get the opportunity to learn too much about these characters or their backstories. Are some of them truly malicious? Or is their behavior simply a result of the situation they find themselves in? With a tone that is at once ominous, seductive and sightly off-kilter, The Beguiled invites filmgoers to contemplate these questions, while unspooling a lurid tale of lust and deception that proves quite beguiling indeed.

AUDIO & VISUALS: 
Much like the film itself, The Beguiled’s Blu-ray presentation is a low-key affair that places atmosphere above all else. Still, this filmic 1080p image does fine justice to the movie’s production and costume design, turning modern-day Louisiana and New Orleans into 1864 Virginia with the aid of a naturalistic color palette dominated by shades of pastels, greens and earth tones. Meanwhile, the default DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does an equally praiseworthy job with the film’s spartan sound design, which is driven by conversations between characters and bolstered by the distant sounds of war, not to mention chirping birds and piano melodies.


EXTRAS: 
Universal's two-disc Blu-ray combo pack includes an iTunes/UltraViolet digital copy, a DVD and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • A Shift in Perspective (6:53) - A look at how writer/director Sofia Coppola has imprinted a female perspective on the story, as well as the camaraderie among the cast.
  • A Southern Style (5:40) - A look at the film's aesthetic, including the color palette, the gothic overtones, the cinematography, and the production, costume and hair design.


The Beguiled is available from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment as of October 10th, 2017. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish and French DTS 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles. The total runtime is 1 hr. 33 min.






* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on June 29th, 2017.



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