Nocturnal Animals Blu-ray Review

Brazenly sophisticated, adult drama will haunt you for days. 4 Stars

Thought-provoking, achingly personal, and sophisticatedly designed films like Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals don’t come along every day.

Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Released: 09 Dec 2016
Rated: R
Runtime: 116 min
Director: Tom Ford
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Cast: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Writer(s): Tom Ford (screenplay), Austin Wright (novel)
Plot: A wealthy art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband's novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a symbolic revenge tale.
IMDB rating: 7.7
MetaScore: 67

Disc Information
Studio: Universal
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DTS, French 5.1 DTS
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: R
Run Time: 1 Hr. 56 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: All
Release Date: 02/21/2017
MSRP: $34.98

The Production: 4.5/5

Thought-provoking, achingly personal, and sophisticatedly designed films like Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals don’t come along every day. One of those rare story-within-a-story films that not only works but meshes together so fluidly that its very construction is a wonder to behold, Nocturnal Animals emerges as one of the year’s best movies and one worthy of repeated viewings which will reveal many hidden riches buried within.

The story of Nocturnal Animals involves artist/art historian Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) reflecting on her unfulfilling, slightly dissatisfied life as she reads a gripping new novel sent to her in galley form by her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). His novel called Nocturnal Animals involves a soft-spoken, sensitive husband Tony Hastings (also Jake Gyllenhaal) and the nightmare he experiences as his wife (Isla Fisher) and daughter (Ellie Bamber) are abducted in a nighttime attack on a deserted highway in West Texas by three rough characters: Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Lou (Karl Glusman), and Turk (Robert Aramayo). The wheels of justice for Tony grind to a halt on more than one occasion in the book, just as Susan realizes that her needful and dependent former husband Edward felt similarly abandoned when she left him for the strikingly handsome but duplicitous Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer) all those years ago.

Tom Ford has produced, directed, and written the film basing his screenplay on the novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright. With its parallel stories traversing the length of the movie, this film most closely resembles in structure The French Lieutenant’s Woman except that the real story of Susan, Edward, and Hutton isn’t told linearly but rather jumps back and forth in time to better reflect passages of Edward’s new book which Susan is totally engrossed in. In his carefully detailed way, Ford has neatly provided visual, verbal, and aural cues that link Susan’s reality to Edward’s fiction so that by the end, we understand completely the cathartic nature of the novel for Edward in explaining his heart and soul to the woman who is responsible for its creation. Visually, of course, the movie is every bit as striking and masterfully composed as Ford’s first startling venture into cinema: A Single Man (some may find the film too artfully and self-consciously appointed). There are painterly vistas of skies and plains, Susan and Hutton’s home is a handsomely crafted and creatively designed structure of immense if cold beauty, and the main title sequence alone is unforgettably forged: an art motion piece involving obese, naked female dancers celebrating their forms amid stationary figures of similar size and shape. But don’t think for a moment that Ford can’t stage and shoot something horrifically ugly: the abduction scene and its aftermath is agonizingly shot stretching tension to the maximum (thankfully, Susan’s apprehension causes breaks in her reading a couple of times allowing the viewer to catch his breath before plunging back into the nightmare). That apprehension sequence can equal the thrills and angst of any of the year’s best thrillers.

The film offers showcases for a handful of talented actors. Amy Adams gets to play older and younger versions of Susan at various stages of her life which she does to perfection. Jake Gyllenhaal might not delineate Edward and Tony to a great degree, but then that’s the point, isn’t it: Tony is simply a fictionalized version of Edward, both men who might be seen by others as weak but are actually merely men whose moral compass operates at a level different from many others. In his very dramatic scenes especially as Tony, Gyllenhaal always delivers. Michael Shannon’s Oscar-nominated work as Detective Bobby Andes is a wonderfully precise depiction of a dedicated, world-weary Texas lawman. Aaron Taylor-Johnson won this year’s Golden Globe for his featured work as redneck rapist Ray Marcus, a cunning, unnerving performance that resonates long after the movie ends. Armie Hammer as the despicable Hutton Morrow has a couple of noteworthy scenes, and Laura Linney is stunning in her one scene cameo as Susan’s haughty mother. Isla Fisher and Ellie Bamber are eerily made up to be mirror images of Amy Adams in playing the ill-fated wife and daughter of the victim Tony Hastings.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The movie was shot on film and is presented here in its theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Everything about the transfer is stunning and clearly reference quality. Sharpness is outstanding, and you’ll see many details in skin textures, hair, and clothes (with those obese naked dancers in the opening credits, you might wish things weren’t so sharp and crisp). Color is carefully modulated to differentiate between the cold blues of the real California art world and Susan’s home life and the richly saturated and golden-hued world of Texas in the novel sequences. Black levels are superbly rich and oily (a movie called Nocturnal Animals certainly should have deep black levels). The movie has been divided into 20 chapters.

Audio: 4.5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix serves the film well without ever drawing attention to itself. The lush, almost Bernard Herrmann-like background score of Abel Korzeniowski fills the front and rear soundstages, and occasional ambient atmospheric effects likewise get proper placement in the soundfield even occasionally featuring some pans through the channels as cars whiz by on the highway. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel.

Special Features: 1.5/5

The Making of Nocturnal Animals (11:18, HD): three brief featurettes can be put together into this vignette about the making, themes, and design of the movie. Speaking are writer-director Tom Ford, producer Robert Salerno, costume designer Arianne Phillips, director of photography Seamus McGarvey, and actors Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, and Ellie Bamber.

Promo Trailers (HD): The Zookeeper’s Wife, Loving, A Monster Calls, Frank & Lola, Desierto, The Edge of Seventeen, and Bleed for This, among others.

DVD/Digital Copy/Ultraviolet: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.

Overall: 4/5

Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals offers sophisticated, thoughtful drama with its unique structure and beautifully modulated performances. The Blu-ray is reference quality as well with stunning image quality which looks like very few films of this or any other year. Recommended!

Published by

Matt Hough

administrator

14 Comments

  1. This is one I missed because it seemed to slip into and out of theaters so quickly. Look forward to catching this on blu. Sounds like it will be right in my wheelhouse. Great review, Matt.

  2. So, this film was…well…a bit odd. Honestly to me it felt like a major exorcise in style over substance and I think was a very emotionally distanced piece. I did enjoy the film as it sort of plays like it is a low rent cross between David Lynch and Brian De Palma. Basically, I think Ford’s writing here is pretty weak but the visuals are fantastic and Michael Shannon is a hoot in this…in fact I think he takes the film to a different level every time he is on screen. So, I can say I did enjoy this but when I was reading how some folks did not feel anything for the characters in Manchester by the Sea…well…that’s how I felt about the characters in this film. They don’t come across as people to me…they seem more to be poses and none of them are really likable I thought…not that that is important just seeing them suffer through what happens to them is a pretty emotionless endeavor or at least it was to me. In fact this played for me as a dark comedy where I sort of laughed at the characters much more than cared about them. They are setup in their own little self devised hells and they all seem so ignorant and self absorbed it appears they very much deserve what they are getting. So, it felt as if Ford was mocking/laughing at these people as well.

    The tone of the movie is something that is pretty wild from the opening “art” installation of nude fat women dancing about and lying on slabs for wealthy people to gawk at to the comic twists in the “story within the story” where the “drama” is supposed to be playing out but at the same time you have to keep in mind that portion of the film is fiction that Adams is reading…not real drama…just visually showing us the fictional novel her husband has written.

    So what the film is really about is and I will put this in spoilers…

    SPOILER
    A bored rich housewife who is a lousy artist and knows it reading a book by her ex-husband while she knows her current husband is cheating on her and having feelings that she may have made a mistake cheating on her first husband (as well as aborting his child) and leaving her first husband. And she knows what she did to her first husband was crappy so she knows she deserves to be stood up by him at the restaurant at the end of the film. So, she’s a crappy human being that is living a crappy life as a crappy artist with a crappy 2nd husband that is cheating on her and so she gets exactly what is coming to her.

    And while I don’t have confirmation of this I think Ford thinks this is funny and wants us to get a chuckle out of it as well.

  3. Sorry, I tried to hide part of my comment in spoilers and somehow that failed and now I can’t edit it. Can a mod cover that in section with the spoiler box so people that have not seen the film don’t read that until they want to?

    HELP!

  4. So, this film was…well…a bit odd. Honestly to me it felt like a major exorcise in style over substance and I think was a very emotionally distanced piece. I did enjoy the film as it sort of plays like it is a low rent cross between David Lynch and Brian De Palma. Basically, I think Ford’s writing here is pretty weak but the visuals are fantastic and Michael Shannon is a hoot in this…in fact I think he takes the film to a different level every time he is on screen. So, I can say I did enjoy this but when I was reading how some folks did not feel anything for the characters in Manchester by the Sea…well…that’s how I felt about the characters in this film. They don’t come across as people to me…they seem more to be poses and none of them are really likable I thought…not that that is important just seeing them suffer through what happens to them is a pretty emotionless endeavor or at least it was to me. In fact this played for me as a dark comedy where I sort of laughed at the characters much more than cared about them. They are setup in their own little self devised hells and they all seem so ignorant and self absorbed it appears they very much deserve what they are getting. So, it felt as if Ford was mocking/laughing at these people as well.

    The tone of the movie is something that is pretty wild from the opening “art” installation of nude fat women dancing about and lying on slabs for wealthy people to gawk at to the comic twists in the “story within the story” where the “drama” is supposed to be playing out but at the same time you have to keep in mind that portion of the film is fiction that Adams is reading…not real drama…just visually showing us the fictional novel her husband has written.

    So what the film is really about is and I will put this in spoilers…

    SPOILER

    Spoiler: spoiler

    And while I don’t have confirmation of this I think Ford thinks this is funny and wants us to get a chuckle out of it as well.

    – See more at: https://www.hometheaterforum.com/nocturnal-animals-blu-ray-review/#sthash.V33q0iwS.dpuf

  5. I would particularly like to hear what people think the dancing naked fat women with sort of 4th of July decorative stuff at the opening are meant represent and what tone that is meant to set as well as what you feel it might be telling us about the rest of the film that follows.

    Tip: I believe at least one character comments on what the dancing naked fat women mean.

  6. So, hopefully some folks here will watch this film and want to discuss it because I am really curious to hear other people's thoughts on this one.

    For example, consider how the women in this film are portrayed…what do you think this film is saying about women?

  7. Reggie W

    So, hopefully some folks here will watch this film and want to discuss it because I am really curious to hear other people's thoughts on this one.

    For example, consider how the women in this film are portrayed…what do you think this film is saying about women?

    I'm assuming you think that the movie has a negative view of women which is to fair say but I don't think the film is saying anything about women as a whole as much as just about Adams' character. I think the revenge story being told in the 'real' world and in the novel says more damning things about Gyllenhaal's character. He's a normal modern guy so he's basically a wuss and he needs Shannon's real tough guy to get to him to finally do anything (novel) or he's just passive aggressive (real world). And even when he acts in the novel, he screws it all up which is what would happen to most people (certainly myself included).

  8. Travis! Thank you for commenting. I guess you could say there are some really good things about this film because I can't stop thinking about it and really want to talk about it.

    In terms of if I think it has a negative view of women…well…I would say it does not portray any of them in a positive light. However, I did listen to Tom Ford discuss the film because I wanted to hear what he said about it and I think to some extent he is portraying them negatively but I am not sure he means to do so in all instances.

    Spoiler: SPOILER

    What happens to Tony at the end of the "novel" story I don't think is meant to be taken as him screwing up.

    Spoiler: SPOILER
  9. Well I just watched it. I was into it and it was engaging to me. Then it ended. And I said 'Uhhhh… Wut?'

    Now I love films like David Lynch's Mullholland Drive where there is a twisted deeper meaning to unravel with thought and discussion. Unfortunately this film seemed to have none of that. There was no hidden theme I could discern. When it ended, it just all seemed completely pointless. That's the word I would use to describe the film. Pointless. Ultimately nothing happened, nothing changed, no plot arc was resolved.

    What was frustrating to me was unresolved things from the actual novel. I wanted to know what happened to the sheriff, 'cause he was awesome. How many times do we see a story where the police actually are interested in solving cases and able to? I wanted to know about the third car at the scene, and who the passenger in that was?

    When I care way more about the fiction within the fiction, something is wrong with the overall story.

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