HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:75
Who would have thought that Jon Stewart (famed for being the antithesis of Stephen Colbert on “The Daily Show”) would actually get behind the director’s chair and head up a feature film? On top of that, who would have guessed that this feature film would NOT be a comedy, but something rather straightforward and taken from a true story? I for one did not see that coming. Based upon a true story, from a book titled “Then They Came for Me”, “Rosewater” tells the story of Maziar Bahari, an Iranian/Canadian journalist working on the mid 2000’s Iranian election. After filming something he shouldn’t have (in their eyes), he was put in an Iranian prison for 118 and tortured as a spy.
I’m not sure what I was expecting from Jon Stewart, especially considering the subject matter, but I really ended up enjoying the film a lot more than I expected to. Jon takes a decidedly sober look at something that obviously means a lot to himself personally. He chose his actors wisely and kept a fairly tight rein on the film, never allowing it to get too somber, or two political for its own good. The focus is mainly kept upon Maziar and the political workings going on during Iran for the first portion of the film. Maziar (Gael Garcia Bernal) spends his time videotaping the people’s reactions to the election process and ends up filming a protest in the streets after the elections go the opposite way that the people were wanting. The rest of the world called the phony election for what it was, and Maziar was arrested as a spy.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=38362[/img]Spending the next 118 days in prison, Maziar was beaten and mentally tortured in an effort to get him to confess that he was a spy. Having done a spot with the daily show the weekend before, Maziar was jokingly called spy and thusly used as “proof” of his involvement. It becomes obvious after the first day or so that they don’t care if he’s innocent. The only thing they care about is getting someone who will go on public television and say to the world that the West is spying on them, thus placating (or at least attempting to) their people. Maziar can only hang on for so long before he cracks, and then gives in to their demands. The only problem is that his wife has been pleading with western government officials in a widespread effort to free her husband and has brought a LOT of the spotlight on Iran. Fearful of the pressure, they finally release Maziar, giving him the freedom he so richly deserves.
As mentioned, I really ended up enjoying Jon Stewart’s freshman feature film. His ability behind the camera, even for a first time director, is rather impressive. His knowledge of filming and how to frame a good shot is shown on screen multiple times, especially during some of the interview scenes. The use of his father talking to him in his subconscious was handled really well visually, and really surprised me, especially from a first timer. The only real major flaw that I felt he fell into was the 2nd act. The first act was fresh and exciting, perfectly setting up Maziar’s fall into the Iranian governments hands, but once he got into prison the excitement stopped as the bleak prison life seemed a bit too humdrum. The tension evaporates and it just coasts along. However, after Maziar realizes the weaknesses of his captors and starts toying with them (the massage conversation is pure brilliance, watch Gael Garcia Bernal’s face during that scene) some life is once again infused into the picture, and brings the enjoyment level back up.
Rated R for language including some crude references, and violent content
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=38370[/img]“Rosewater” comes to Blu-ray with a very pleasing 1.85:1 AVC encoded transfer that ranges from good to excellent. A majority of the film is shot with a teal color grading and a nearly impeccable looking video presentation that is alive with all sorts of detail. Intermingled with the excellent looking photography is a decent amount of scenes where we are seeing through Maziar’s camcorder and the degrade image, while intentional, looks distinctly lower quality. In the “regular” portions of the movie (which take up a vast majority of the image) we see a plethora of excellent fine detail and some really great moments of clarity. During the prison sequences you can see the stubble that forms along Maziar’s chin, and the crumbling stone and paint that litters the poor Iranian landscape. Black levels are very suitable, and though there is some crush in some parts of the movie, they hold extremely well. Compression wise, there didn’t seem to be anything other than some softness to a few scenes. A good encode, and despite the low budget, doesn’t fail to impress.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=38378[/img]Armed with a solitary 5.1 DTS-HD MA track in English, “Rosewater” fares just as well sonically as it does visually. The front heavy track mainly focuses on the dialog, but it does branch out with some solid use of the surrounds during the more intense scenes. The riot that started all of this demonstrated some great directionality and immersion as the crowds pelted buildings in protest and let their voices be heard. LFE is strong, but not overpowering. Giving some great low end to the film, even though it never gave you that “pounding” feeling that a more action oriented movie would give. There were some instances where I had to strain a little bit to hear some voices, but that was really due to the heavy accents of the Iranian people rather than the encode.
• Iran's Controversial Election
• The Story Behind Maziar Bahari
• Real Spies Have TV Shows
• What Happens in New Jersey
• A Director's Perspective
Now that Jon Stewart has decided to retire from “The Daily Show”, I’m honestly curious to see what other work he’s going to do behind the camera. Will he continue his film career? No one know, but if he does decide to pursue this avenue, I can see him doing some very solid work in the future. I really enjoyed “Rosewater” and despite a few flaws in his delivery, would really enjoy seeing more of him. The video and audio presentation are both great, falling right in line with many of Universal’s recent releases of films in this genre. The extras were the only point of contention here, as there are a decent AMOUNT of extras, and was hoping for some good insightful exercises into Jon’s mind. Unfortunately each of the extras are only about a minute apiece, and really only act as light filler. Still, it’s definitely worth checking out. Recommended.
Starring: Gael García Bernal, Kim Bodnia, Dimitri Leonidas
Directed By: Jon Stewart
Written By: Jon Stewart, Maziar Bahari
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1,
Runtime: 104 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 10th 2015
Buy Rosewater On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It!
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