Studio: Dimension / Disney
Film Length: 118 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 / 1080P High Definition
Subtitles: English SDH, French & Spanish
Release Date: October 17, 2006
Terry Gilliam is, quite simply, one of my favorite filmmakers. I place his classic films Brazil, The Fisher King and 12 Monkeys amongst some of the finest works of cinematic art of the last 30 years. With this being said, I’ve not been a particular fan of some of his more recent work. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas left me a bit cold and I’ve generally felt that if Mr. Gilliam’s heart isn’t entirely invested in a particular project, we often see results that lack focus and seem muddled. Would The Brothers Grimm be one of these less focused efforts, or more in line with classic Gilliam?
The Brothers Grimm spins the classic yarn of Wil and Jacob Grimm and their traveling “ghostbusting” business. The film begins with Jacob (Heath Ledger) and Wil (Matt Damon) arriving in a small town to work their “magic” by exorcising the spirit of a witch. After some elaborate setup, it is soon revealed that the Grimm’s spirit removal business is nothing but a scam. Without giving away too much of the plot, the brothers soon find themselves up against actual forces of the supernatural. The film incorporates various fairy tales into the plot, mining details from Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel and just about every other fairy tale one could name.
The Brothers Grimm is a fun but flawed movie. At times it falls into slapstick comedy territory, while at other times the tone is deadly serious. Gilliam is a bit uneven here and the movie lacks a real sense of organic flow. I found Matt Damon to be particularly mis-cast as Wil. He frequently drops in and out of his pseudo-European accent and generally looks a little lost during the course of the movie. Heath Ledger is more convincing and the supporting cast is outstanding. Peter Stormare is particularly excellent - - but then again, when isn’t he? Visually, the film is very rich. I was really taken aback at some of the fantastic visuals and storybook scenes presented. Gilliam is usually at his peak when he able to work within such a fantastical visual setting. Unfortunately, I just didn’t feel that the story and visuals had as much cohesion as I would have liked. The movie simply gets lost in its visual mastery and the plot suffers as a result. I’m going to recommend The Brothers Grimm based solely on the strength of the visuals and the strong work from the supporting cast. This is a beautiful movie visually. I just hope that like many Terry Gilliam films, repeated viewings will allow me to find more to connect with in the plot.
(***** / *****) 5/5
Given the dark and murky atmosphere of The Brothers Grimm, anything less than a superb transfer would have been a total mess. Fortunately, Disney has stepped up to the plate and offered The Brothers Grimm on Blu-Ray using the newer AVC compression codec on a transfer of an absolutely pristine print of the film. The print is perfect, without any of the dirt or grime that has been all too prevalent on many Blu-Ray releases thus far. Movies like this really show the benefits of high definition. Shadow detail is superb with the smallest visual details perfectly presented in even the darkest of scenes. There is a terriffic sense of depth to the picture that really pops off the screen. Black levels are rock solid and color accuracy is nothing short of phenomenal. I didn’t detect even the slightest bit of edge enhancement, mosquito noise or macroblocking. And believe me, there are tons of scenes in this film that could have really fallen to pieces given a poor transfer. This is also the most natural presentation of film grain I’ve ever seen on home video. It is absolutely perfectly rendered - smooth and never distracting. Take for instance the many interior scenes in the film: I was particularly impressed with wall textures and fabrics. Just about every interior shot features some sort of textured stucco or plaster wall in the background. You can clearly make out every shadow and nuance of this texture. It’s just really impressive stuff. Also pay particular attention to the costumes. I could clearly make out extremely fine fabric details and intricate design patterns. This is reference quality video and amongst the best I’ve seen on either HD format.
The Brothers Grimm is presented with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound as well as uncompressed PCM 5.1. While the Dolby Digital track is very strong, the PCM track is out of this world. The soundstage was totally enveloping in PCM with crisp details and outstanding bass. It really is amazing how much more natural and open the uncompressed track feels. Surrounds were extremely active with ambient effects and directional sound. There are many instances in the film when birds fly from foreground to background and vice versa. The surround activity presented the various chirps, whooshes and effects in a totally realistic manner. It took me all of about 20 minutes into the movie before I stopped marveling at the sound and simply found myself enveloped into the experience. Outstanding.
The Brothers Grimm includes the standard fare of several deleted scenes and a commentary track with Terry Gilliam. None of this was particularly enticing save the Terry Gilliam commentary. He’s always interesting to listen to and tells some pretty interesting stories about development of the story and the visual aspects of the film. As far as commentaries go, this one was pretty interesting and informative. The disc also starts up with a Blu-Ray trailer regarding upcoming releases and the now infamous anti-piracy trailer. Fortunately, I was able to skip through these by simply skipping to the next track.
The Final Analysis:
While I didn’t enjoy the The Brothers Grimm as much as I’d hoped, it is still an entertaining film with some genuinely inspired art direction and effects. This Blu-Ray presentation, however, is pure reference material. The Brothers Grimm ranks amongst the best discs I've yet seen for showcasing HD technology and showing off that new home theater. From a technical standpoint alone, this disc is highly recommended. Perhaps upon further viewing I’ll find this film to be a more potent entry into the Terry Gilliam catalog from a story standpoint.