Based on the bestselling novel by master storyteller Nicholas Sparks, THE LONGEST RIDE centers on the star-crossed love affair between Luke, a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia, a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City's art world. As conflicting paths and ideals test their relationship, Sophia and Luke make an unexpected connection with Ira, whose memories of his own decades-long romance with his beloved wife deeply inspire the young couple. Spanning generations and two intertwining love stories, THE LONGEST RIDE explores the challenges and infinite rewards of enduring love.
Here we are in another year, which means we have a new Nicholas Sparks book that has been adapted into a movie. The movie in question is 'The Longest Ride', which one critic states is the "Best Nicholas Sparks movie since The Notebook". You can take that with a grain of salt really, because 'The Longest Ride' isn't about a fun road trip, nor is it about an 'Eyes Wide Shut' party. 'The Longest Ride' just might refer to sitting on top of a bull, holding on for dear life for a matter of seconds, hoping not to get gored in the face or private parts.
Like pretty much all Nicholas Sparks stories, this one follows the same formula, but with semi-different characters. Two young people fall in love, even though they are very different, where another couple from many years ago talk about their passionate relationship in some form or fashion that relates to the modern couple. It's a hell of a formula for a certain audience that continue to turn out in hordes to witness what they think true love and romance is "supposed to be like". Unfortunately, Ryan Gosling does NOT show up here.
To my surprise though, 'The Longest Ride' had a somewhat big Jewish element to it, and being Jewish myself, I was excited to see what Sparks had to convey about it. In the beginning, we meet a young man named Luke Collins (Clint Eastwood's son, Scott Eastwood), who is a fairly successful bull rider on the rodeo circuit. Well, when you tie ropes around certain parts of the bull, then ride them, chances are that you'll get injured, which is exactly what happens to Luke. It's a bad injury, which puts him out for a while, but during his recovery, he meets a pretty girl named Sophia (Britt Robertson), who is studying art.
The two hit it off and begin a romance, although they are very "different". One night though, they end up rescuing an elderly man (Alan Alda) from a bad car accident, which he yells for them to save a bunch of old letters rather than himself. The man's name is Ira Levinson, and as Luke gets back on top of the bull on the rodeo circuit, Sophia nurses Ira back to health and begins to read him all of the letters they saved. The letters turn into flashbacks where we see a young Ira (Jack Huston) fall in love with a young woman named Ruth (Oona Chaplin), who had just escaped the holocaust. The two begin a passionate relationship, but Ira can't have kids due to an injury.
When other methods are announced, problems ensue. Through these flashbacks, Sophia begins to think about a life with Luke, which culminates in the usual Spark's reveal between the past and present. The performances by everyone involved are quite good, however they only go so far as the script allows, which hits heavy on the cheese quite a bit. In addition to that, the stories that are being mixed in between the two timelines are clunky at best. The emotion and love between Ruth and Ira is fairly good, but it really never goes anywhere, nor does it really tie in to Sophia and Luke's relationship. It just seems like a missed opportunity that director George Tillman Jr. (producer of 'Barbershop I and II) didn't capitalize on.
'The Longest Ride' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The movie itself may not be great, but this video presentation is quite good. The film was shot digitally and has very vivid and sharp detail throughout. Closeups reveal excellent facial features that show individual hairs, beads of sweat, and makeup blemishes very well. Fine stitching in the wardrobe also shows up nicely.
Wider shots are also crystal clear that show the background items, sets, and extras with clarity, giving the image some depth. There are a few moments in the flashback sequences that have different color filters, which turns down the detail, making it a bit soft. Colors are bright, bold, and pop off screen, with the exception of those flashback moments. The black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones are always natural. There was no evidence of any aliasing, banding, or any other compression issues, leaving this video presentation with great marks.
This release comes with an excellent lossless DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio mix. This isn't a movie with constant action, but when the scenes where the bull riding is center stage, you will feel total immersion inside the rodeo. The sound effects of every rodeo and bull sound are perfect, loud, and layered. The directionality here is excellent. The cheers from the crowd is phenomenal and will completely place you inside the moment.
Ambient noises are also excellent throughout. During these heavier action moments, your speaker system will get a good workout. Other than that though, the soundscape is fairly mild. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow at all times. Mark Isham's score always provides the additional tonal elements and never drowns out any dialogue or sound effects. There were no pops, cracks, hiss, or high shrills. The LFE is excellent and the dynamic range here is very wide, giving this audio presentation great marks.
Commentary - Director George Tillman Jr. and actress Oona Chaplin deliver an audio commentary here, which is light on the technical side of things. They talk about filming on location, the themes of the film, casting, and working with each other. It's light hearted and fun, if you're a fan of the film.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD, 20 Mins.) - There are quite a bit of additional scenes or extended scenes here, none of which add any depth or story to the overall movie. Just some minor character development that wasn't needed. There is optional commentary with Oona Chaplin and George Tillman Jr.
A Writer's Journey: A Day in the Life of Nicholas Sparks (HD, 5 Mins.) - A camera basically follows Sparks around for a day, well 5 minutes, as you can see what his day is like.
Beyond the Ride (HD, 5 Mins.) - Here is your usual promo reel for the film with cast and crew interviews.
Bringing it to Life (HD, 5 Mins.) - Here is a light-hearted discussion between Nicholas Sparks and Alan Alda.
Meet the Real Bull Riders (HD, 6 Mins.) - This extra has some of the consultants and stuntmen talking about riding bulls and performing in the rodeo.
Luke's Bull Riding School (HD, 5 Mins.) - Here we see Scott Eastwood's training for riding bulls.
Gallery (HD, 2 Mins.) - A slideshow of images from the film.
Trailer (HD, 3 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
'The Longest Ride' isn't a good film by any means, but it will definitely satisfy the die hard Nicholas Sparks romantic drama fans. It's basically the same movie as we've seen in every Sparks film from the past several years, never having it's own personality. The performances are solid for the most part, but the cheesy dialogue is unfortunate. The film would have been much more interesting if it followed the older couple throughout. That being said, the video and audio presentations are top notch here, and the extras should satisfy fans here. This is for Nicholas Sparks FANS ONLY!