Title: The Red Turtle
HTS Overall Score:
I was drawn to “The Red Turtle” just by the fact that it has the Studio Ghibli name to along with it (and strangely enough, released by Sony instead of Universal or Disney). While it’s not your traditional Ghibli film, “The Red Turtle” is very obviously one of their products as seen by the engaging storyline and emotionally driven feel to the whole experience. Shot by Dutch film maker Michael Dudok de Wit (who directed the Oscar wining short film “Father and Daughter” a while back), “The Red Turtle” tells a story completely devoid of dialog, yet still managing to pull at the heart strings like a world class Pixar film. The movie is built around music, immersive environmental sounds and the ability to tell a story just by actions (something that sometimes feels lost in today’s world of overly preachy film dialog driven storytelling and need for bright colors and flashy action).
The premise for the film is that of an unnamed man washing up on the shores of a lush, vegetation filled island after some sort of storm, ala Robinson Crusoe. He obviously was shipwrecked or something similar, and wants to get off but runs into the problem of having nothing to escape on. Building a makeshift raft out of tree trunks and woven grass this man tries his best to escape, only to run into an unknown force that tears his raft to ribbons. Naturally he tries again and again, but this same underwater force keeps destroying his boats. After trying and failing quite a few times the man finally meets his foe, a giant red turtle who seems intent on keeping him from leaving. Frustrated, the man flips the turtle on its back in the sand (so that it can’t right itself and swim after him) and begins to build another raft. After just about finishing the boat the man realizes that the turtle is not moving. Not wanting to actually KILL the creature, he tries his best to resuscitate the creature to no avail.
Here is where I’m going to stop summarizing the plot as this would spoil a great deal of the viewing experience, but sufficed to say what happens next sparks a lifelong journey of love and acceptance with his circumstances. “The Red Turtle” excels at telling a simplistic tale with incredibly powerful emotions somehow being intertwined with the hand drawn visuals. At first it seems that we’re having a typical adventure where a man is stranded, but what ends up happening is the viewer watching a sweet and lovely tale about finding joy and happiness in whatever situation you are thrust in life. Director Michael Dudok de Wit does a fantastic job at allowing the body language of the man and his compatriot tell the story for us, forgoing all types of language (except for the occasional exclamation or yell) and somehow manages to have the audience snuffling and wiping a tear from their eye while smiling at the same time.
Despite not having a traditional narrative, “The Red Turtle” is a simply magnificent story that deals with life, joy, sadness, finding happiness in your life and giving to one another, all in the span of 81 minutes including credits. There are very few times that I say an animated movie is truly GREAT, but this is one of those times. De Wit balances the simple storyline with just enough depth and nuance to have the audience totally enthralled with the tale and by the end of the movie you have this warm and fuzzy feeling all over, despite the fact that not one word of dialog is spoken, which I have to say speaks to the skill of everyone involved.
Rated PG for some thematic elements and peril
I was VERY nervous the week before “The Red Turtle” showed up in my mailbox. Recently Sony and Sony Pictures Classics have been releasing some of the more esoteric new release films in their database their Manufactured On Demand lineup called “The Choice Collection”. “Toni Erdmann” and “The Comedian” both were slated for regular releases, but then were suddenly changed at the last minute to being an MOD burned Blu-ray instead of a pressed disc. Thankfully Sony Pictures Classic gave this one the regular Blu-ray treatment, so don’t fear there. The disc itself is near perfect, with lovely hand drawn animation that tends to be a little darker and more straw colored with its coloring. There is mostly a straw and sand look to the desert island and the people associated with it, and any primary colors that DO show up (like red hair) are very dark and not wildly saturated in nature. Detail is exceptional, with clean hand drawn lines and wonderful detail. There’s some mild softness and digital noise at times, but once again, not enough to really complain about.
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is labeled as an ENGLISH track, but really it could be labeled ANY langue considering there is zero dialog the entire film. However, that does not mean that the mix is anything short of perfection. Without dialog the rest of the experience has to be filled in with atmospheric effects, and like someone losing sight, or sound, the rest of the remaining senses have to make up for it. Much the same way, the audio track makes up for the lack of dialog by creating an incredibly immersive sound field that just hums and lives off of the surrounds and mains playing together in perfect harmony. The rustling of the wind through the forest trees, the lapping of the water against the sandy beach, or the roar of a giant storm. Each one has an individual and unique presence that makes the listening experience a real treat. LFE is deep and guttural when called upon, and the surrounds always have something going through them, and while the center channel isn’t filled with any dialog, the occasional yell or scream from the man pops up and makes use of the channel now and again.
• Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Michaël Dudok de Wit
• The Birth of The "Red Turtle"
• The Secrets of The "Red Turtle"
• "The Red Turtle" at AFI Fest Q&A
• Theatrical Trailer
This review was an intentionally “short” review on purpose, being that “The Red Turtle” is better left to the viewer to appreciate rather than spoiling what happens during the film. A true “experience”, the film catches at the heart strings and deals with the simplicities and complexities of life with just a few tools at its disposal. I absolutely loved the fact that it used hand drawn animation for 95% of the film, giving it an extremely organic and textured feel to the watching of the film. Truly a masterpiece, “The Red Turtle” is a terrific example of world class animation and exquisite storytelling in its most simple form. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Starring: Emmanuel Garijo, Tom Hudson, Barbara Beretta
Directed by: Michael Dudok de Wit
Written by: Michael Dudok de Wit (Story), Pascale Ferran (Screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DVS
Runtime: 81 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: May 2nd, 2017
Buy The Red Turtle On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
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