Blu Ray Title: Milk
Disk Release Date: 3/17/09
Screen format: High Definition Widescreen 2.35:1 1080P
First theatrical release: 22 December, 2008
Previous releases on disk: Day and Date with Anamorphic Widescreen DVD
Director: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, and James Franco
Sound Formats: English DTS-HD Master Audio
Length: 2 hours 9 Minutes (BD-50)
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
In Milk, Sean Penn stars as Harvey Milk, an aging California businessman who decides that he hasn’t accomplished anything in his life that he can be proud of. As an openly gay man Milk finds his calling to politics, and his cause in bringing rights to the gay community that other minorities have been able to claim through the civil rights movements.
While it is a pretty linear story, a character study and a nostalgic look at what is a period of great political swings, Milk mixes things up by being told as a series of flashbacks as viewers learn early in the film that Milk and San Francisco mayor Moscone have been shot and killed, leading those (like me) who aren’t familiar with the real history to get involved wondering how he comes to this sad end.
While the story is a bit slow and unsurprising, it is the powerful performances of its cast that makes this film what it is. Penn won the Academy Award for his portrayal of Milk and it is well deserved, he brings a nuanced and convincing personality to Milk without overdoing it. James Franco’s Scott Smith is a male version of what we see all too often in politics, the partner who is overwhelmed and left behind as the public face of campaigns take off. Josh Brolin’s Dan White is a very complex character with a lot of faces, the political one he wears and hints that are brought out by Milk’s associates of others lurking beneath the surface. Emile Hirsch’s Cleve Jones is perhaps the biggest arc of all, going from street hustler to campaign advisor to becoming creator of the AIDS quilt project.
Sound Quality: 3/5
Sound is largely front focused with spurts of full surround in the numerous scenes of political marches and protests. Bass is very minimal. Soundtrack wise a series of period rock songs back up the solid dialogue but it is Danny Elfman’s score that I found most surprising here, featuring interesting themes for each of the main players and a hopeful, upbeat tempo for most of the film despite its dark spots.
Visual Quality: 3.5/5
Milk chose to use a somewhat desaturated look to its stock matching the period it shows, but overall there are some well lit contents with good coloring and details. The print is perfectly transcribed with no visible damage or artificial issues that I could note.
Extra Features: 2.5/5
Milk only has three extras but all of them help to put the events of the film in historical perspective. Remembering Harvey allows people who knew Milk to talk about his influence and personality. Hollywood comes to San Francisco has cast and crew talking about the film, and best of all has input from the writer and screenwriter on how they brought the story to life. Marching for Equality interviews those who took part in Milks Campaigns and other rallies to discuss how they brought their message to the public’s attention and tackled the sentiments against their cause.
Overall: 3.5/5 (not an average)
For someone like me who knows nothing of the history of San Francisco, the gay rights movement, and Harvey Milk himself, and the only Moscone I know of is the Convention Center that Apple holds many of its events in, this story was definitely an interesting one and the performances were able to hold my attention as well. Picture and sound quality were adequate and the extras are a little skimpy, but overall it’s a solid disk that backs a story that is informative and powerful.