Echo Bridge Home Entertainment // 2008 // 133 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // January 28th, 2012
A classic novel. Amazing location shooting. Emma Thompson in period dresses. Is it the 1990s again?
When Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode, Watchmen) started school at Oxford in 1923 he didn't know that a chance encounter with Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw, The Tempest) would change his life forever. Sebastian and Charles bond at a deep level, Sebastian obviously quite taken with Charles' good looks and witty mind. Sebastian eventually takes Charles to his sprawling mansion: Brideshead.
There Charles becomes entranced by Sebastian's alluring sister Julia (Hayley Atwell, Captain America: The First Avenger). He also comes face to face with the overbearing matriarch of Brideshead, Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson, Nanny McPhee). Charles is thrust into the glitz and glamour of the family, trying his best to remain friends with Sebastian (who obviously wants to go further) while getting closer to Julia. But high drama and a World War twist all their lives around, forcing each to take a closer look at themselves and their fractured relationships. Michael Gambon (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) rounds out the cast as Lord Marchmain.
Judge Benjamin Saylor reviewed this film a few years back, and I have to agree with all his points. Though I enjoyed Brideshead Revisited, I never truly felt connected to any of these characters. Most of the actors do a lot with facial expressions and body language to show us the deeper issues going on inside, but stripping down the movie to its bare essentials ends up making the whole thing play out like a sudsy love triangle.
One of the key elements from the novel I never got from this version of the film was Charles' infatuation with Brideshead and the lifestyle it presents. In the novel, this obsession drives nearly all his actions. In this version, Charles feels more like an impulsive youth attracted to Sebastian and his carefree approach to life. Then he's completely twitterpated by Julia (who looks luminous, but doesn't really have much of a character). Atwell does what she can with the underwritten role and succeeds in providing some pathos by the end, but the whole movie is pretty darn cold.
It's the supporting elements that really help the overall production. Costumes, sets, and locations are top notch. Brideshead is an impressive structure and manages to be both glorious and oppressive, thanks to Jess Hall's cinematography. Brideshead Revisited also contains some eye candy in Venice and Moracco, underscored by Adrian Johnston's lovely score that fits the film like a glove and really to the conflicted emotions of the characters.
Now you may have noticed I gave this review a pretty low score. It's due to the fact that this is one hell of a pointless double dip. Sure Echo Bridge provides a solid audio and visual experience. The standard definition 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image is nice and clear, and the Dolby 2.0 stereo audio is well balanced. But that's it. No extras to be found at all.
Check out the version released by Miramax back in 2008 and you get commentary, deleted scenes, and a making of featurette. The older version even sported a surround mix as well as English and Spanish subtitles. What should have happened was a nice high def transfer on Blu-ray. Even without the extras that would have given fans of the film something to look forward to. I suppose if the drop in price works for you, then that's something. But otherwise, I think fans of the film would have already picked up the first release.
Brideshead Revisited isn't bad for a costume drama, but this re-release baffles me.
A guilty double dip if I ever saw one.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 133 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13