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September 5, 2015
The Homesman Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
14/11/2014 (USA)24/6/2015MadmanTommy Lee Jones
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD MA 5.1MA15+Hilary Swank

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Tommy Lee Jones is brilliant as an actor, and director, in The Homesman.

The Homesman probably isn't a film too many people would have heard of, but its one which should please both male and female movie watchers. It's a film set in the Wild West, but one which focuses on the struggles of women, and isn't overly action packed but with Tommy Lee Jones starring and directing, Luc Besson Producing and Hilary Swank starring, as well as a host of other great actors, it was a film we were keen to check out.

When three women living on the edge of the American frontier are driven mad by harsh pioneer life, the task of saving them falls to the pious, independent-minded Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank). Transporting the women by covered wagon to Iowa, she soon realises just how daunting the journey will be, and employs a low-life drifter, George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones), to join her. The unlikely pair and the three women (Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter) head east, where a waiting minister and his wife (Meryl Streep) have offered to take the women in. But the group first must traverse the harsh Nebraska Territories marked by stark beauty, psychological peril and constant threat.

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Like most of her films, Hilary Swank is superb.
Somewhat surprisingly this is only the second feature film directed by Tommy Lee Jones and it shows that the very busy actor is actually quite an accomplished director getting great performances from the quality list of actors in the film. Set design and locations are also fantastic and while this isn't an action-packed film some snappy dialogue and frequently changing dynamics with the characters keeps the film fresh to an ending that on one hand surprises and on the other feels a little flat. Still, as they say, it's the journey not the destination.

If you go into The Homesman expecting an action-packed Western then you will likely be sorely disappointed. This is a much slower paced and thoughtful film, with superb acting and direction, that demonstrates the hardships which women went through during this violent period of time.

From a technical standpoint this film is encoded in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio using the AVC MPEG-4 codec. What we did notice on our PS3 was the video bitrate was very low at times, and while this isn't always a great measure of quality it does give some indication. One example, at the 5:17 minute mark in an dimly lit interior shot the bitrate often sat between 7-9Mbps which is very low.

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Exterior shots on The Homesman look superb.
Fortunately for most of the films exterior, naturally lit shots this bitrate often sits around 30Mbps and the scenes look spectacular with superb levels of detail and natural colours.

The Homesman is presented on Blu-Ray with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (16-bit/48Khz) which is as impressive as one would expect from a recent Hollywood film. Dialogue is crystal clear, surround sound channels occasionally get a workout and occasional action has plenty of punch to it. That's not saying it's as lively as a Michael Bay film, but it doesn't have to be. Certainly one of highlights of this film is the wonderful musical sore from composer Marco Beltrami which sounds stunning on this Blu-Ray.

There are no other audio tracks available on this this Blu-Ray and only one English SDH Subtitle track which, from brief samples throughout the film, was accurate to the dialogue.

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The Homesman is set during the Wild West, and production values impress.
Upon starting this Blu-Ray there are trailers for Suite Francaise (2:16), The Water Diviner (2:36), and Foxcatcher (0:56). Fortunately there are also some features focused on the actual film worth your time.

The Story (21:25/HD): While the title would suggest this featurette is focused on the storyline there is plenty of on-set footage and production detail provided in this wonderful documentary with interviews with the main cast and crew throughout. Certainly not a fluff piece this is worth a look.

Shooting The Film (27:17/HD): Although covered in the first featurette this is a much more extensive look at the films production and, yet again, a wonderful behind the scenes look at the creation of this film including a focus on Tommy Lee Jones as Director of the film.

The Western (11:44/HD): Again this continues from the previous featurettes and this time focuses on the idea of a "Western" film - as Tommy Lee Jones says "a Western is a movie that has horses in it, and big hats, and takes place in the 19th Century" - brilliant. Like the other extras, this is also worth a look.

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Hilary Swank as Mary Bee Cuddy; too plain to get a husband apparently.
The Homesman at Cannes (11:00/HD): This is a look at the film being presented at the Cannes Film Festival with some of the Q&A panel presented here.

The Homesman isn't a great film set in the Wild West, and certainly isn't action based like most, however it is one of the few that focuses on hardships which women went through at the time and with an all-star cast this is worth checking out.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Madman. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.