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HTF Blu-ray Review: FRACTURE



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#1 of 2 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

Michael Reuben

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Posted June 15 2009 - 07:42 AM

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Fracture (Blu-ray)


Studio: Warner (New Line)
Rated: R
Film Length: 113 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Codec: VC-1
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; English DD 5.1; German DD 5.1; Polish Voiceover DD 5.1; Russian DD 5.1
Subtitles: English; Spanish; German; Polish; Russian; Ukrainian
MSRP: $28.99
Disc Format: 1 25GB
Package: Keepcase
Theatrical Release Date: April 20, 2007
Blu-ray Release Date: June 16, 2009


Introduction:

Superior thrillers are worth watching even when you know what's going to happen. That's what
makes them rewatchable. If figuring out the ending were the only point of watching a thriller, you
couldn't be creeped out by Psycho once you know the truth about Mother, and you couldn't be
excited by the murky world of The Usual Suspects once you know the identity of Keyser Soze.
Both of these films stand up to repeated viewings because they are so much more than just their
final "reveal". Gregory Hoblit's Fracture, while not in that league, is another thriller that stands
up to repeat viewings because it offers more than just its crime mystery. Above all, it offers a
showdown between the unlikely pairing of Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. Warner, through
its New Line label, is releasing a very good, albeit barebones, edition on Blu-ray.


The Feature:

Ted Crawford (Hopkins) is a successful engineer with his own firm. He is brilliant, arrogant and
supremely self-possessed. He is also jealous of his much younger wife (Embeth Davidtz), who is
having an affair with a cop named Nunnally (Billy Burke), whose specialty is hostage
negotiation. After methodically stalking the philandering pair, Crawford awaits his wife's return
in their luxurious home and shoots her. Then he locks the doors, making it appear that a hostage
situation is in progress. When Nunnally is called to the scene, Crawford calmly lets him in, sets
down his gun and confesses to the shooting. The case is open and shut.

Enter Willy Beachum (Gosling), a young and ambitious prosecutor who is the envy of his
colleagues for the job he has just landed with a prestigious private firm. Beachum is assigned to
handle Crawford's arraignment, and Crawford takes a strange shine to the young prosecutor. He
fires the public defender, insists on representing himself and waives all pretrial precedings so that
he can proceed to trial as quickly as possible and Beachum can stay with the case. Beachum, who
has a history of seeking out winning cases, takes the bait.

But the case against Crawford quickly begins to fall apart. Too late, Beachum realizes that
Crawford has manipulated the situation so that all the apparently air-tight evidence against him is
somehow defective. Beachum suddenly finds himself in the lonely position of losing a
supposedly slam dunk prosecution against an unrepresented defendant in a high-profile case
that's daily making the front page - and that cushy law firm job no longer looks like a sure thing.

Gosling is one of the screen's most dynamic young actors, and he makes Willy Beachum a
seething bundle of ambition who can barely hold still. This makes for a striking contrast to
Hopkins' Crawford, who is equally driven, equally purposeful, but has learned to keep all that
energy tightly focused within. Gosling seems to have galvanized Hopkins, whose performance
has a snap that's been missing from much of his recent work. Their scenes together crackle with
the energy of adversaries and, by the end, you feel genuine loathing between them. Even when
they're not sharing the screen, the performances make a strong enough impression that each one
reverberates in the other. (This sometimes happens with the right pairing, e.g., Harrison Ford and
Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive.)

The film is filled out with good supporting work from reliable stalwarts like David Strathairn as
the D.A., Cliff Curtis as a police forensics expert, Fiona Shaw as the trial judge and Rosamund
Pike as a predatory senior associate at the firm where Beachum hopes to work. And just as an
aside, I can confirm that a technical point of law on which the conclusion of the film depends
is accurately represented. It's just the sort of arcane detail that an arrogant layman would
overlook.


Video:

Warner's transfer is very good, with deep blacks and excellent detail. You appreciate it most in
the interiors of Crawford's house, which, as befits as place of secrets, has numerous areas of deep
shadow; it also features a large, apparently purposeless sculpture built by Crawford as an
engineering exercise, the details of which are wonderfully clear on this Blu-ray image. DP
Kramer Morgenthau has lit most of the film with a yellowish cast, occasionally highlighting a
specific area of the screen with a cyan tint to "pop out technique, but an effective one, and the Blu-ray conveys it effectively. I did not see much in the
way of film grain, but this did not appear to me to indicate DNR or high-frequency filtering in the
transfer, as detail remained solid. Rather, I suspect the lighting, processing and especially the
digital intermediate were managed to minimize grain as much as possible. I also did not notice
any edge enhancement.


Audio:

The disc defaults to the Dolby TrueHD track (thanks, Warner!), which is immersive and
atmospheric without being showy. It gives you a nice sense of different environments but doesn't
call attention to noises behind you. Fidelity is excellent, as one would expect for a recent
production.


Special Features:

The same as the standard DVD, except that the Blu-ray doesn't include any trailers for other
features.

Additional and alternate scenes (11:12). Only one of these is of any significance, because it
fills in details of Willy Beachum's biography. I think the film is stronger without it, but others
may disagree.

Alternate endings (22:47). These two alternate endings were shown to preview audiences and
are therefore finished in a way that we don't often get on home video. Though the basic plot is
unchanged, the mechanics of working it out are significantly different. I prefer what was created
for the finished film, but you be the judge.

Theatrical trailer. It gives a little too much away, but not nearly as much as some trailers.


In Conclusion:

Fracture was largely overlooked during its theatrical release. It deserves better. This Blu-ray,
which should go for very reasonable street prices, is an excellent opportunity to catch up with
one of the more entertaining thillers from recent years.

Neil Middlemiss' fine review of the 2007 DVD can be found here.


Equipment used for this review:

Panasonic BDP-BD50 Blu-ray player (Dolby TrueHD decoded internally and output as analog)
Samsung HL-T7288W DLP display (connected via HDMI)Lexicon MC-8 connected via 5.1 passthrough
Sunfire Cinema Grand amplifier
Monitor Audio floor-standing fronts and MA FX-2 rears
Boston Accoustics VR-MC center
Velodyne HGS-10 sub

COMPLETE list of my disc reviews.       HTF Rules / 200920102011 Film Lists

#2 of 2 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

Neil Middlemiss

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Posted June 17 2009 - 03:50 PM

Michael - Another pitch-perfect review...thanks!
"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
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