George Clooney (The Perfect Storm) and John Turturro (Cars 2) embark on the adventure of a lifetime in this hilarious, offbeat road picture. And now, for the first time, this quirky gem shines more brightly than ever in Blu-ray High Definition!
Fed up with crushing rocks on a prison farm in Mississippi, the dapper, silver-tongued Ulysses Everett McGill (Clooney) busts loose…except that he’s still shackled to two misfits from his chain gang: bad tempered Pete (Turturro) and sweet, dimwitted Delmar (Tim Blake Nelsen) With nothing to lose and buried loot toregain, the three embark on a riotous odyssey filled with chases, close calls, near misses and betrayal. Experience every unpredictable moment as it plays out in the crystal-clear sound and breathtaking picture quality of Blu-ray. Populated with strange characters, including a blind prophet, sexy sirens and a one-eyed Bible salesman (John Goodman), O Brother, Where Art Thou will leave you laughing at every outrageous and surprising twist and turn!
The brilliance of 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' is that it's a fun, highly amusing sport of allusions steeped in 1930s Depression-era folklore and local color. It tests the knowledge of its audience in delightful fashion while also questioning the storytelling medium's ability to capture a sense of reality or to even reflect the human condition in any accurate way. The answer is, of course, fairly obvious going into it, but the real joy and pleasure comes from the hilarious journey of self-discovery by three literary fools in search of a mythical treasure.
From its opening quotation and the film's title, the Coen brothers -- the writing/producing/directing tag team responsible for several thoughtful motion pictures -- make their intentions known and openly invite viewers to participate in the revelry. While being loosely based on Homer's The Odyssey — through cultural osmosis, not from an actual reading of the tale — it also purposefully brings to mind Preston Sturges's 'Sullivan's Travels.' In fact, I'm of the firm belief that one should probably watch that classic prior to digging into this satirical homage as its themes do play a significant role.
On the other hand, it's not really necessary for simply sitting back and enjoying the madcap belly-laughs. George Clooney is terrific as a modern caricature of Odysseus, or as he is known in Roman mythology and named in the movie, Ulysses. He's the self-designated leader of a small three-man outfit of recently escaped convicts, and he's not terribly good at it. Going against type, Clooney shows he's having a blast with the idiosyncratic strengths of that legendary character, portraying his attributes in hysterically ironic enthusiasm. He's talented and wittily smart, but still foolishly arrogant and full of anger, living up to his name by being equally hated and full of constant sorrow.
His two dimwitted partners, Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson), have little reference to anything else outside the movie unlike the rest of the storyline, but the characters are comical, shining additions nonetheless. Nelson's tagalong, gullible persona makes for a lovable doofus in search of salvation but endlessly caught in horribly tight predicaments of sinful behavior. Turturro turns in a surprisingly knockout performance as another haughty but pathetically dunderheaded personality, setting up several moments of competitive clashes with the cockiness of Clooney's Everett.
On their travels to Everett's hometown of Ithaca — a blend of Faulkner's and Twain's Mississippi, not Homer's Greece — and hopefully back into the arms of his beloved Penelope (Holly Hunter), the trio suffers a wild, Southern gothic misadventure, filled with an array of strange, bewildering personalities. Aside from those based on the epic poem, such as the beautiful Sirens and John Goodman's cyclopean Bible salesman, the several historical figures strewn throughout the film are the real highlights.
The men become part of living history as they pull a bank heist and run from the law with George "Baby Face" Nelson (Michael Badalucco). They also offer a ride to young, aspiring musician Tommy Johnson (Chris Thomas King), a combination of legendary delta blues musicians Tommy Johnson and Robert Johnson, the massively influential grandfathers of 20th Century music. Notice that Tommy's description of Satan is actually that of Sherriff Cooley (Daniel von Bargen), the man tirelessly hunting the boys down with a devilish air about him. The bumbling troupe even stumbles upon the power of the radio right around the same time as Governor "Pappy" O'Daniel (Charles Durning).
The Coen brothers do an absolutely marvelous job with 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Filled with endless humor and originality, the entire narrative is delightfully well-paced with perfectly timed jokes and a genuine admiration of the South's eccentric locales. Roger Deakins provides gorgeous, inspiring imagery of the locations, delivering a charmingly vintage, nostalgic flare sensation about the story. As an objective viewer, I must confess the plot feels like a pieced together collective of random ideas with little thought to their import as a whole. But part of the film's fun and spirited energy comes from being just that, a wittily clever and savvy display of comical nonsense. And as admitted Coen fan, I love it for what it is!
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Walt Disney Studios and Touchstone Home Entertainment bring 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD50 disc, housed inside a blue eco-vortex keepcase. Once in the player, the disc starts with a trailer for 'Real Steel' and a Disney promo piece. Afterwards, the main menu fills the screen with music and full-motion clips.
Disney brings 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' to Blu-ray with a very attractive 1080p/VC-1 encode, giving Roger Deakins cinematography the best possible presentation it's ever received on home media. The stylized photography is awash with a distinguishing sepia tone, heavily pushing the browns and golden amber hues, and it looks simply marvelous in this high-def transfer.
The rest of the palette is also noticeably skewed, so primaries are deliberately far from accurate though skin tones appear healthy and appropriate to the sweltering Southern climate. Blacks are inky rich and intense with deep, penetrating shadows throughout, and contrast levels run purposely hot but consistent, providing the image with excellent clarity and an appreciable cinematic quality. Despite a few moments of softness due to the photography, fine object and textural details are first-rate with beautiful definition of clothes and facial complexions in the foreground and wonderful visibility of leaves and the architectural characteristics in the background.
This is a striking video presentation for a brilliant comedy.
Keeping up pace, but leaving a slightly bigger impression, is this fantastic and winning DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack fans will definitely love.
The design is not about showboating or dazzling listeners with endless noise, but about creating an air of realism and a natural environment. Thus, atmospherics and other activity in the rears are kept very light, but still discrete and convincing. They're audible enough to be quite immersive during certain sequences, providing the soundfield a wonderful spaciousness and richness. Music bleeds into the background with splendid fidelity and elegance while voices and the gunfire of "Baby Face" Nelson's Tommy gun echo throughout.
The front soundstage exhibits excellent balance and movement between speakers, creating an admirably wide and broad imaging. Dynamic range exhibits sharp, detailed renderings of the upper frequencies, providing the lossless mix with a warm presence and clarity. Low bass is accurate and appropriate to the genre, adding some creditable weight and power to the few action scenes.
With precise, perfectly audible dialogue in the center of the screen, this high-rez track makes the film a real joy to listen.
For this Blu-ray edition of 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Disney ports over most of the same bonus features seen on the DVD release. The one thing missing unfortunately is the interesting "Painting with Pixels" featurette, a good discussion on the film's cinematography.
'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' is an amusing romp through 1930s Depression-era folklore and local color. Loosely inspired by Homer's The Odyssey and Preston Sturges's 'Sullivan's Travels,' the fantasy comedy is a wild ride with a strange array of caricatures and situations, and it features a great cast of actors and a terrific eclectic collection of music. The Blu-ray comes with an excellent audio and video presentation, but supplemental material is terribly lacking. Overall, the package is a strong upgrade and fans should be pleased.