Review of Man Who Wasn`t There, The
Way back, no sorry, way way back, when the new romantics ruled the charts and most households had a Rubik cube size hole in the living room window a couple of brothers gave us a first glimpse into minds that were surreal but funny, dark but poignant. The brothers, Joel and Ethan Coen, the film Raising Arizona (1987). It wasn`t a big hit and didn`t sit well with the many doddering critics but it struck a chord with plenty of young fancy free teens. It became a cult movie and paved a golden path for two previously unknown writer/directors.
They moved along at a slow pace but on this journey they brought us Tim Robbins and Hula Hoops, not the potato snack, in the Hudsucker Proxy (1994). Missing toes in The Big Lebowski (1998) and the underrated O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000). Their movies offer worlds that are real but seem dimensionally shifted ever so slighly out-of-whack just enough to keep the viewer interested. Most are simple tales with a twist and simple is always best!
In The Man Who Wasn`t There (TMWWT) they again pay homage to the classic American crimewriter as in their previous outings Millers Crossing and The Big Lebowski. The film is shot entirely in black and white which keeps the stark cold atmosphere of the James Cainesque thrillers. Billy Bob Thornton, well known as a bit of a Hollywood nutjob and beau to the beautifully troubled Angelina Jolie gives a performance that borders on the creepy. The action is slow paced for a thrller with Billy`s character, Ed, mostly narrating the storyline. Favourites of the Coens return to give their usual excellent performances. Frances McDormand, Michael Badalucco and James Gandolfini positively shine.
The brothers have a superb insight into the sublime and the odd. The unique wry narrative is there as usual and the cast pick it up and run with it to great appeal. This is another in a short line of films that people will love or hate. It`s doesn`t have the warmness of Fargo or Brother but sits on its own merits as a consistent piece of brilliant movie making from the brothers Coen.
Shot in black and white this is a crisp clear picture. Presented in 1:85.1 anamorphic widescreen there`s some fabulous detail captured on this DVD with solid black and vivid bright whites. I didn`t spot a single piece of macro blocking or any haloing from the brightest areas. If you have a image set-up disc get it out and give your system an image tune-up. I did and it`s well worth it as the depth of greyscale is just fabulous with an almost three-dimensional quality.
It`s not a demo disc but it does offer some bangs. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is subtle on most accounts giving more time and effort to the dialogue in what is a very vocal movie. The surrounds are used to good effect for some of the subtle background noises and the bass extension doesn`t overpower but kicks in with gusto when needed.
The Surround 2.0 track is obviously not as enveloping and the bass lacks the grunt, but then again this isn`t Terminator 2.
This is a crammed single disc with some nice and some waste of space extras. I`ll kick out the dead wood first with a stills gallery. I`m not a huge fan of production stills in this genre of movie. These are better suited to the action, horror and sci-fi movies where the behind the scenes photos can give better insight into the production.
You also get the usual trailers and TV spot ads. There`s a nice animated scene selection menu and biographies of the cast and the Coens` earlier work.
Next we have a selection of five deleted scenes. These are always nice but in most cases, and this is no exeption, offer little to help understand the movie any better and most are obviously cut for pacing in what is a slow movie.
The cream of the crop are the interviews and making of documentaries. You get one with cinematographer Roger Deakins which runs for 48 minutes and is great fun with some superb anecdotes. The next is a `making of` documentary where the principal cast discuss the process from script to screen. This runs for 17 minutes and again gives the viewer a greater understanding of the whole process.
Finally, my favourite, the audio commentary. Here we have the Coens with Billy Bob Thornton waxing lyrical about the shoot. This is great fun and any DVD that doesn`t contain a commentary track is a DVD lacking!
The Coens give us another superb movie full of wit and dry humour. This isn`t as cosy as some of their earlier offerings but will keep die hard fans happy. The disc is top notch for video and sound presentation but the extras are a little bit hit and miss!