HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Nocturnal Animals
HTS Overall Score:89
I’ve never been so initially repulsed and bored by a film that changes pace just as quickly to the point of enthralling me to the bitter end. Tom Ford is not exactly known for his long history of filmography. In fact, besides “Nocturnal Animals” he has only made one other film (which he also wrote and directed), “A Single Man”, which is an astute human study in the form of celluloid. One wouldn’t exactly expect great film making coming from a man who is “nothing” but a fashion designer (Tom has worked for many fashion companies such as Gucci in years past before launching his own name brand in 2006), but he has a strangely lavish eye for human study in much the same way Sam Peckinpah does. “Nocturnal Animals” is tale of revenge and introspection, all contained in a unique “story within a story” scenario that keeps you guessing until the very end. Needless to say, I was completely engrossed in the film by the end and have to say my initial dismissal of the film in the first 30 minutes is nothing short of a miracle.
The film starts with our “outer layer” story, with Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) dealing with the aftermath that is her life. Susan is a bitter art gallery owner, who starts the film with one of the most bizarre and completely non-sexual forms of nude art that I’ve ever seen. So bizarre that I felt we were watching a niche arthouse flick that would seek most of its approval at the sundance film festival instead of upon theater screens like “Nocturnal Animals” initially broadcasted. This fades into Susan’s real life, a facsimile of existence where she lives with her husband Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer), a failing businessman who is just as much of a fraud as her “edgy” art show. Susan is left with the knowledge that her whole life is plummeting around her while her husband ignores her completely and spends his time off with other women despite her feeble protests.
Things change when a package shows up with a manuscript for her husband (19 years divorced) Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) out of the blue. It seems that Susan had left her husband Edward under some SERIOULY brutal terms (how brutal is not revealed till much later in the film), but Edward seems to have moved on and become the writer that she thought he never would with his latest book. The thing is, it’s a viciously brutal novel about a young man (strangely mirroring Edward) who watches as his car is run off the road and is forced to watch while his wife and child are kidnapped and assaulted off screen, AND it’s dedicated to Susan. As Susan reads the novel she’s enthralled with the viciousness and savagery that her ex-husband has poured into the novel, all the while realizing that this film is paralleling Edward in some sort of sick revenge thriller with the rest of her life. The wife and daughter (played by Isla Fischer and Ellie Bamber) look and sound ridiculously like Susan and her daughter, and the main character mirrors Edward so much that Susan can’t help but feel paranoid over the way she left things with him.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91706[/img]Tom Ford is not someone that you would expect this type of film from. He’s a fashion mogul who has made one other film in his entire life and makes his existence off of the superficiality and luxurious tastes of others. However, that makes him uniquely suited to tell this tale based off of a novel from Austin Wright. Susan’s superficiality and lack of character when it came to her ex-husband makes her completely paranoid and vulnerable for Edward’s novel. We’re never left with the knowledge of whether Edward’s novels is malicious towards Susan, or whether her leaving him just acted as the conduit for him to bring his creativity to the forefront and make his latest work. Instead we watch and wait with baited breath, hoping that Susan’s fears aren’t realized, yet still almost maliciously waiting for the axe to drop above her head.
At the same time, we’re also completely engaged with the story within a story, as Edward’s tale of death and revenge is played out on screen thanks to Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon. It’s just as compelling, but just as starkly parallel to Susan’s life as you can imagine. While I won’t divulge the actual ending of the movie, let me say that is DELICIOUSLY perfect and right on par with what you’d expect from Sam Ford. It display’s Susan’s superficiality for all the world to see as her ex-husband plays her in a way that I didn’t see coming, and while fairly benign, fits well with the revenge tale that doesn’t play all of its cards at once.
Rated R for violence, menace, graphic nudity, and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91714[/img]“Nocturnal Animals” is one of the few movies left that was shot on 35 mm film and transferred to Blu-ray using a 2K DI with stunning results. I’m a HUGE fan of traditional film and the texture and feel that is associated with the medium is something that can only be seen to be understood. While “Nocturnal Animals” wasn’t a giant blockbuster film (it barely was in theaters before slipping out this summer) it manages to gain a 5 star rating as an absolutely sumptuous experience. The film is picture perfect in every way, with stunning clarity all around an a lovingly created look that can’t be replicated. The story of Susan and Edward is almost clinical and sterile clean in its presentation, with Susan’s home looking metallic and “modern” in every way. Facial details are magnificent and crystal clear, with every pore on a face, or every crease in a piece of upscale clothing magnificently rendered. The story that Edward tells is much more earthy and golden in hue, with strong amounts of brown and yellow saturating the image. The picture is still just as perfectly rendered and artifact free, but with a decidedly hazier and raw look to it compared to the almost clinically sterile look of Susan’s sub plot. Blacks are deep and inky and I couldn’t see any artifacting AT ALL in the image. Simply put, a demo worthy encode to the max.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91722[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix is an unassuming mix, but one that is impeccably nuanced and full of subtle immersion. It never draws attention to itself, but draws the listener in with a subtle mix of ambient sounds that play at the back of the sound stage, and intermingle with the haunting score that just seems to flow in and out of the film like a writhing serpent. LFE is tight and clean, but soft and demure at the same time. Content to attach itself to the score and several more potent sounds (such as a car accident or gunshots), it winds in and out like the score and creates an immersive experience that doesn’t really feel as immersive as you would expect unless you sit back and think about it. Dialog is cleanly replicated, and the dynamic range jumps between mild and unobtrusive to jolts of extreme range that shock the listener out of their chair.
• Building The Story
• The Look Of Nocturnal Animals
• The Filmmaker's Eye: Tom Ford
“Nocturnal Animals” is a sophisticated and intelligent drama that requires a certain taste to enjoy. While it is not a REAL arthouse film, it appeals to those of us who enjoy films that are not completely spelled out for you and deal with subtle messages, vs. blatant 3 act storytelling. I’m not trying to say that you have to be a snob to enjoy “Nocturnal Animals”, but that it appeals to those people who really enjoy a nontraditional thriller. The Blu-ray sports AMAZING video and incredible audio, and coupled with some fairly mediocre extras still makes for an amazing watch (especially if you can make it past the first 5 minutes of the movie). While I would LOVE to recommend the movie for everyone, everywhere, I fully understand that “Nocturnal Animals” is one of those films that will not appeal to everyone, thus I give it a solid recommendation, but with the warning that it is definitely nontraditional in its approach.
Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon
Directed by: Tom Ford
Written by: Tom Ford (Screenplay), Austin Wright (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish, French (Canadian) DTS 5.1
Runtime: 115 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 21st, 2017
Buy Nocturnal Animals On Blu-ray at Amazon
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