How does an Irish lad without prospects become part of 18th-century English nobility? For Barry Lyndon (Ryan O’Neal) the answer is: any way he can! His climb to wealth and privilege is the enthralling focus of this sumptuous Stanley Kubrick version of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel. For this ravishing, slyly satiric winner of 4 Academy Awards, Kubrick found inspiration in the works of the era’s painters. Costumes and sets were crafted in the era’s designs and pioneering lenses were developed to shoot interiors and exteriors in natural light. The result is a cutting-edge movie bringing a historical period to vivid screen life like no other film before or since.
After 'A Clockwork Orange' and before 'The Shining', Stanley Kubrick made an epic period drama that was 187 minutes long. It's the least talked about films of Kubrick's resume, but should in fact be one of the most discussed for its sheer beauty and brilliance. Kubrick decided to adapt the 1844 fictional book called 'The Luck of Barry Lyndon' by William Makepeace Thackeray and the results were astounding. Not only did Kubrick's vision win critic and audience's praises, but it also won four Oscars and might be Kubrick's best looking film in his collection of work, which is quite the feat, considering every single one of his films is visually stunning.
Hell, many critics and outlets have deemed 'Barry Lyndon' one of the greatest films ever made, and they wouldn't be far off the mark with that statement. But why does this film get the shaft from debates and film geeks like ourselves, spending hours discussing. Maybe it's perhaps the slow burn of this very long film, instead of Kubrick giving us a wild and adventurous tale of one man. Or maybe it's the fact that our main protagonist, Barry isn't such a great man from start to finish, thus disconnecting us with someone to relate to, not mater the time period. But I think that is one of the points here.
Kubrick not only wanted to make a film that was similar to walking into one of the greatest art galleries of the world and spending hours looking at the gorgeous paintings, but also show us an objective look at a man's life and how he conducted himself in his own selfish ways, which leads Kubrick to hypnotize us for a couple of hours before smacking us in the face. It's quite a brilliant move on Kubrick's part. Told in two acts, 'Barry Lyndon' starts out with Barry's father being killed in a duel in Ireland. At this time he known as Redmond Barry (Ryan O'Neil). After the death of this father, Barry falls in love with his cousin and makes several advances towards her, although she never reciprocates, because she loves the English military Captain.
This angers the bratty and rude Barry and with his idiotic reaction to this, he is forced to flee his home and with no money and nowhere to go, he enlists in the British Army where he is shipped into the Seven Years' War. You'd think Barry would mature or think things through, but he doesn't and flees his post and regimen and ends up forced to join the Prussian army now. After the war, Barry is still a jerk and to make money, ends up becoming a cheating gambler with wealthy players. If his opponents give him grief or don't pay, he duels. Not exactly the best life.
He soon has an epiphany and no longer wants to live a poor life of gambling, cheating, and stealing, therefor he decides to marry a rich woman so that he can live off her dime. He accomplishes this with marrying a very wealthy countess (Marisa Berenson). It's not too long that the countess realizes what kind of person Barry really is, who has now taken on her last name Lyndon, hence 'Barry Lyndon'. Barry openly cheats, steals, and does not love his wife, but only uses her for her money where he lives a life of debauchery for his selfish needs. The only person who seems to want to speak up or do something about Barry is the countess' son from her first marriage.
And now we see all these issues and harm that Barry has caused come full circle as it weighs him down and causes him great humiliation, and rightfully so. What he has tried so hard to do, which is to clim the social ladder and keep his pockets full of money, suddenly come crashing down with his stupidity and childish actions. And the second half of the film focuses on Barry trying to confront these problems. This is not a redeeming story by any means as Barry never wants to better himself, but would rather keep up his shameful shenanigans for his own personal glory and wealth, which is coming to a stop quickly.
Kubrick's vision for 'Barry Lyndon' is one of the most beautiful pieces of art and cinema out there. Each frame of the film could be paused, printed out, and hung up on your wall. It's that amazing. The use of natural light and classical music fully immerses you into this old world, and with award winning performances by everyone in the film, it's no doubt that Kubrick has concocted concocted yet another masterpiece for himself and for us to enjoy and talk about. It's one of those films, like most of Kubrick's movies where if it is on television, you can't help but watch the whole thing all the way through. It's a film where you'll notice something different each time and take away something new with each viewing, which is something that doesn't come along too often.
'Barry Lyndon' comes with an excellent 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This is one of the best looking Kubrick films out there and this Blu-ray shows just how visually stunning this film really is. Overall, the image is soft looking, but that is the intent here. There is a very nice layer of grain that coats the picture, giving it a nice filmic and organic image. That being said, detail is still sharp and vivid, especially during closeups, which reveal the intimate detail in the costumes and lace as well as individual hairs, bumps, and wrinkles on the actor's skin. All of this is executed without the digital car wash look.
Wide shots look amazing here too and give the film some visual depth. Colors are fantastic and well saturated. The green fields pop, the blue skies soar, and the red, browns, and oranges look simply awesome. Nothing is overly done though, still giving this image a very natural look. The scenes where everything is lit by candles look incredible. The skin tones are natural and the black levels are very deep and inky always. There are no issues with banding, aliasing, dirt, debris, or video noise, leaving the video presentation with high marks.
This release comes with a great lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix in English as well as several other languages with great and easy to follow subtitles. I'm so happy this is in 5.1, because originally and on past releases, this has had only a mono mix. And I'm pleased to say that this 5.1 track sounds excellent. This is mostly a front heavy mix, but the rear speakers and bass to kick in from time to time, giving us a fully immersive soundscape into this visually beautiful film.
Sound effects and ambient noises are mostly scarce, but when they do creep in, they sound real and robust. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, or hissing. The LFE is excellent and the dynamic range is fairly wide. The score and narration both sound great and never drown out any dialogue or sound effect, leaving this audio presentation with top marks.
Trailer (SD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
'Barry Lyndon' is one of Kubrick's finest looking films. It's beautiful on every level. The slow burn really hypnotizes us all the way through, leaving us with a very satisfying taste. The acting is out of this world too. The video and audio presentations are top notch, but the lack of extras is disappointing. Other than that, this film is highly recommended.