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Although most people think of Clint Eastwood as an iconic film actor, his strongest talents actually lie behind the camera as a director. Taking the director’s chair for the first time almost forty years ago, Eastwood has directed the majority of films he starred in, culminating in Best Director and Best Picture Oscars for his brilliant western UNFORGIVEN and boxing drama MILLION DOLLAR BABY. Over the nearly four decades since his debut, Eastwood has also served as director on a few standout films in which he did not appear- 2003’s MYSTIC RIVER ($29) falls into that latter category. MYSTIC RIVER is a darkly tragic film based upon Dennis Lehane crime novel that benefits greatly from Eastwood’s familiarity with the genre, not to mention, the Oscar winning performances of Sean Penn and Tim Robbins.

MYSTIC RIVER introduces the audience to three boyhood friends named Jimmy, Sean and Dave, whose friendship are forever changed by a horrifying incident that leaves one of them emotionally scarred for life. MYSTIC RIVER then moves forward roughly twenty-five years, where a new tragedy draws the three together once again. Sean Penn portrays the adult Jimmy Markum, an ex-con whose eldest daughter is found murdered in a local park. Kevin Bacon is the adult Sean Devine, now a State Police Detective, who finds himself searching for the murderer of his old friend’s daughter. Finally, we have Tim Robbins as the adult Dave Boyle, who returns home on the very evening of Jimmy’s daughter’s murder, covered in blood and claiming to have had a violent encounter with a mugger. To say anymore about the plot would detract from the mystery as it unfolds. The fine supporting cast of MYSTIC RIVER includes Marcia Gay Harden, Laurence Fishburne, Laura Linney, Thomas Guiry, Emmy Rossum, Spencer Treat Clark, Jenny O'Haraand an uncredited turn by Eli Wallach.

Warner Home Video has made MYSTIC RIVER available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. For MYSTIC RIVER, Blu-ray offers a wonderful upgrade to the film’s visuals, as represented in this highly nuanced 1080p presentation. As I noted in the DVD review, there is stark and gritty quality to the film’s cinematography, which doesn’t try to paint a pretty face on the ugly events of the story, or the ugly world in which these characters inhabit. The same holds true for the high definition presentation, although it is now cleaner, clearer and more revealing. Image sharpness, detail, clarity and dimensionality are all very strong performers, with fine details, such as textures and imperfections in the actors’ skin coming across very well. Colors fall somewhere between a natural level of saturation and appearing slightly muted. Occasionally, one will see a strongly saturated hue, but for the most part, the film’s palette has a somber quality. Blacks are inky, while the whites are clean. Contrast reflects the harsh starkness of the film’s intended look. The elements from which MYSTIC RIVER has been mastered are quite. There is usually a light veneer of grain within the image, which maintains the organic quality of this excellent presentation.

MYSTIC RIVER is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The transition to high definition also offers MYSTIC RIVER a rather nice sonic upgrade. Of course, for all intents and purposes, MYSTIC RIVER is a talky drama that features an appropriately mixed sound design. While much of the sound is localized front and center, the outlying channels do see some activity, with sound effects tending to be of an environmental nature, which helps keep the sonics quite natural. As for the music, the lossless encode enhances the haunting quality of Clint Eastwood’s moody score. Voices have a effortless quality, plus the film’s dialogue is always completely understandable. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menu gives one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental features, which have been ported from the DVD release. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with actors Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon. While a little slow, there are a few interesting moments which make the commentary worth a listen. Running twenty three minutes is Mystic River: Beneath The Surface, an entertaining look at the production, that includes interviews with director Clint Eastwood, actors Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Marcia Gay Harden, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, plus novelist Dennis Lehane and screenwriter Brian Helgeland. Mystic River: From Page To Screen clocks in at eleven minutes and features many of the same interviewees, who discuss the adaptation of the book to the screen. Up next are a section of interviews from The Charlie Rose Show featuring Clint Eastwood (forty minutes approximately), Tim Robbins (fifty minutes approximately) and Kevin Bacon (twenty minutes approximately). A Theatrical Trailer and Theatrical Teaser close out the supplements.

MYSTIC RIVER is a powerful and compelling work from director Clint Eastwood that features Academy Award winning performances from Sean Penn and Tim Robbins. Warner’s Blu-ray edition offers a terrific upgrade over its standard definition counterpart. Absolutely recommended.



Mystic River [Blu-ray] (2003)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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