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Wakefield (Blu-ray Review)

When it comes to certain actors, there are some you’ll just watch no matter what the hell they do. Bryan Cranston is one of those few who are worth it just for their name involvement. I think post-Breaking Bad, many are now in agreement with that. Shout! Factory has managed to partner up with IFC Films and land a little independent drama starring the master thespian. Its called Wakefield and has him opposite Jennifer Garner.  She’s someone I really like, but I know she’s hit and miss with many people. The film has an intriguing premise and will be available to own on Blu-ray August 1st. Shout! Factory had originally announced it was August 22nd, but you benefit and its available much sooner. You can take a gander at the review and scroll on down to the very bottom if you’re interested in pre-ordering it to add to your collection.

Film 

Successful suburbanite commuter Howard Wakefield has taken a perverse detour from family life: He vanishes without a trace. Hidden in the attic of his garage, surviving by scavenging at night, he secretly observes the lives of his wife and children. But soon, he realizes that he has not left his family … he has left himself.

Bryan Cranston leads Wakefield pretty much all on his lonesome. The majority of the film is told through narration and he’s virtually presence in every moment. Luckily, it is Bryan Cranston we are talking about here, and he’s up to task and is able to take this chancy premise and make it not only work, but he manages to make it compelling, real and grounded. Whatever weirdness it sounds like this movie could be is gone in and instant. His genuine believe-ability makes this normal.

This film is based on a short story and is told a lot through voyeurism and flashbacks. The looking on and peering in at others is decently done.  However, the film is sort of lacking a little bit of an artful approach that could have taken this to another level. Instead is just sort of basically done. It could be a budget constraint, rather than a creative one, but that might be the only place where its lacking. That, and the movie does overstay its welcome a bit. This might have been terrific at a cool, swift 80 minutes, but instead its 10 minutes shy of being 2 full hours. Its too focused on its details and ramblings and less so on its pace and engagement.

I do have to give it to Wakefield, it is quite an interesting and unique film. There’s a pretty solid, original premise at hand that falls into a little bit of a weird territory, but it makes it feel grounded and normal somehow. Bryan Cranston really carries this thing and without him, I don’t know if it would be near as interesting. My only little beef is that there wasn’t enough of Jennifer Garner. I’m not sure if this is a film to look back on, but its certainly worth a curious watch on a rental or stream.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail: Wakefield debuts on Blu-ray with a nice little modern image. Its a pretty dark film for a lot of it, but the picture handles well. Its pretty crisp and sharp with plenty of good details abound and some really strong colors when they show (A map in one brief moment looks gorgeous as well as some of Garner’s dresses). The surfaces of walls, paper and flooring actually looks pretty strong here. This is pretty much what you come to expect in an above average IFC/Shout! Factory release.

Depth:  Spacing and such is pretty decent here in this picture. There is a good sense of distance between character and background. No real three dimensional feel to everything, but its loose and good. Movements are smooth and cinematic and I didn’t witness any jitter or blurring effects.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and provide some really good sharpening and shadows. Not much detail is lost in the darkness in the picture. No crushing was witnessed during this review.

Color Reproduction: Colors are really natural. They hint at being muted but when things are well lit, rustic things really pop and all solid, primary colors look bold and strong. Greens from the grass and garden things look quite well as do browns on cabinets, floors and the like.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are given a natural look and maintain that consistency from scene to scene, beginning to end. Facial details like stubble, wrinkles, moles, make-up, lip texture and more really impress from any degree of distance with the camera. Funny enough, since a lot of this is all seen from a distance by our main character, it makes sense.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Wakefield has a nice solid 5.1 track, that does prove useful in spots, but the 2.0 one is honestly really good enough given the film. Sound effects and such sound pretty realistic. There is a healthy balance between the music, effects and vocals. The vocals are the primary star here, but the others do get the opportunity to shine when given the chance.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Most of the subwoofer workings come from the film’s score, but there are some doors shutting and things being set down as well as heavy footsteps than make a little bump.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is a more front heavy track and there’s not a whole lot of action going on in this movie. Its quite a quieter one to be honest. Movement is accurately depicted and the rear speakers do work well when called upon.

Dialogue Reproduction: This is a narration-heavy film and a lot of it sounds very nice, crisp and clean. But at times it does try to replicate a garage echo or sound (even though its coming from his head). All diction is captured quite well.

Extras 

Wakefield is a 2-Disc set that also contains the DVD edition.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:03) 

Summary 

Wakefield is a really intriguing and interesting one man show/curiosity that finds Cranston on his usual A-list game. This Blu-ray comes with a really great performance in terms of the audio and picture quality. Its not going to floor anyone, but its completely solid. Lacking is in the bonus features department, which makes me feel the best recommendation is that you see it first via a rental or stream and then decide if you want to own it based on the merits of the film itself.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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