Blu-ray
Highly Recommended
3.5 stars
List Price
$26.99
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$9.99 (63%)
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Overall Grade
3.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
0 Stars
High-Def Extras
1 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Fences

Street Date:
March 14th, 2017
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
March 13th, 2017
Movie Release Year:
2016
Studio:
Paramount
Length:
138 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis turn in remarkable performances in 'Fences', the 2016 film adaption of August Wilson's 1985 play, which all of the main actors in this movie (aside from the one playing the young son) did on Broadway together in 2010. It was Washington (who not only stars, but directed and produced) who decided to bring back his stage mates for the movie version and it works wonders. The familiarity the actors have with each other transfers to the people they are playing, making each and every character in the film well rounded and interesting to watch.

Denzel and Viola star as married couple Troy and Rose Maxson, who are living a lower middle-class life in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the 1950s (although, honestly, it's only a few Pittsburgh references that clues the audience in...this could be Anytown, USA). Troy makes a living as a garbage collector, although he spends a lot of his free time lamenting about a baseball career that never happened for him. Rose is a dutiful housewife, and the two have a son together, Cory (Jovan Adepo). Troy has an older son, Lyons (Russell Hornsby), from an earlier relationship before he met and married Rose. Troy also has a disabled brother, Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson), whose brain was damaged as a result of a gunshot he suffered while serving in World War II. Troy's co-worker and good friend Jim Bono (Stephen McKinley Henderson) is also on hand for much of the story.

While early on in the movie, Troy seems very likeable and somewhat relatable, as the film progresses, the troubles of his existence begin to appear and unravel. He has a somewhat estranged relationship with his older son, while any closeness he has with Cory starts to fall apart when Troy prevents him from playing football, even though he's good enough that a college scout is interested in him. Later in the movie, actions that Troy is involved in will threaten his marriage to Rose as well. Almost all of Troy's problems come from a resentment he carries about his own failures – believing that were he born in a later era – and, yes, perhaps even with a different skin color – he could have been able to achieve his dreams.

Of course, the film's title, 'Fences' is an allegory for the various emotional walls that Troy has built up between himself and other members of his family. It's also symbolic of Rose's efforts to keep those around her close to her, as well as Troy's own fear about his life ending before he's ready to go (he has a long speech during the film about keeping the Grim Reaper away from him). Of course, there's also a real fence that Troy is building in the movie, with his progress or lack of it symbolizing where his relationships and emotional well-being are currently at.

If there's any complaint about 'Fences' – and it's a minor one – it's that the movie still feels very much like a stage play in its presentation. Only a few scenes take place away from the Maxson home, and the dialogue of the movie (screenwriter Tony Kushner adapted a screenplay that August Wilson had worked on prior to Wilson's death) still has that stage feel to it, rather than a more realistic, everyday tone. But those are minor quibbles. The acting here is so powerful, one can't help but enjoy every second of the movie. It's impressive work.

The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats

'Fences' stakes its claim on Blu-ray in an eco-friendly Elite keepcase which includes an insert containing a code for both an UltraViolet and iTunes copy of the film as well as (on the flip side) a code for a digital copy of The Manchurian Candidate (which expires in mid-June of 2017, so be quick to redeem that one). The 50GB Blu-ray is not front-loaded with any trailers, and the main menu is a still shot of Denzel and Viola's characters (although different than the one on the box cover), with menu selections across the bottom of the screen. The Blu-ray also comes with a slipcover (matching the box cover) that slides overtop the keepcase.

The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Fences' was shot on 35mm film on the Panavision Panaflex Millennium X2 and is presented here in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Very few movies (and even fewer major studio releases) are shot on film anymore, it's nice to see one as well rendered as it is here. There's a lushness to the visuals and a real clarity and depth to be found on this Blu-ray release, allowing viewers to see the detail in every brick and crack in the Maxon's home. Grain is present, but never obtrusive, and I detected no major issues with often-seen issues like aliasing or banding on this transfer.

While the color palette sticks very much to earth tones – we get a lot of browns and greens here – there's an overall warmth to the movie that I enjoyed. There are not many nighttime or dimly-lit sequences, but when needed, the black levels here are strong with an inky deep look to them – so no issues with noise creeping in. This is a great presentation that falls just a little bit short (but not much) of being reference-quality. Fans of the film should be quite pleased with the presentation.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The featured audio here is a 7.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio track, which proves to be more than enough for a movie like 'Fences', as it's very much a dialogue-heavy film with almost all of the dialgoue coming from the front and center. Of course, that doesn't mean the surrounds aren't used – although they're primarily to enhance the atmosphere with sounds like birds chirping or the occasional mummering of people in the background or down the road.

The track is clearly rendered, with no obvious glitches or issues of note.

In addition to the lossless 7.1 track, an English Audio Description Service is available. Subtitles are also an option in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Note: All of the bonus features on 'Fences' are exclusive to this Blu-ray home video release, as Paramount has only released a bare-bones version on DVD (However, these same bonus featurettes are available if you buy the digital copy on outlets such as Vudu). They're all detailed in our 'HD Bonus Content' section below.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • Expanding the Audience: From Stage to Screen (HD, 9 min.) – Director/producer/star Denzel Washington is on-hand to talk about how the story made the jump from stage (where he performed it, alongside most of the actors in this film) to the big screen. Also included are comments from Kenny Leon, who directed the Broadway version Denzel starred in; Constanza Romero Wilson, August's widow; and stars Viola Davis, Russell Hornsby, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Mykelti Williamson.
  • The Company of 'Fences' (HD, 9 min.) – A look at the cast of the movie, all of which – with the exception of the two children in the movie – were part of the 2010 Broadway stage version.
  • Building 'Fences': Denzel Washingon (HD, 7 min.) – The director/producer/star talks about his effort to bring 'Fences' to the big screen.
  • Playing the Part: Rose Maxson (HD, 7 min.) – Star (and now Academy Award winner) Viola Davis talks about her role in the movie.
  • August Wilson's Hill District (HD, 6 ½ min.) – Denzel and other members of the cast and crew talk about shooting the movie in and around the Hill District in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Final Thoughts

Beautifully shot and acted, Denzel Washington's 'Fences' brings the acclaimed Broadway play to the big screen, thus making it available to millions who might not have the chance to see it otherwise. Both he and co-star Viola Davis are stunningly effective in their roles, giving us a look at the life of a struggling family who – despite the time period and economic status – almost all of us will be able to relate to. This is a wonderful film that, even with all the accolades it has received, probably hasn't gotten as much attention as it deserves. It's one of Washington's best movies to date and comes highly recommended.

Technical Specs

  • 50GB Blu-ray/Digital HD

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.40:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
  • English Audio Description Service

Subtitles/Captions

  • English, English SDH, French, and Spanish

Exclusive HD Content

  • Expanding the Audience: From Stage to Screen
  • The Company of Fences
  • Building Fences: Denzel Washington
  • Playing the Part: Rose Maxson
  • August Wilson's Hill District

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

List Price
$26.99
Amazon
$9.99 (63%)
3rd Party
$9.99
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»

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