11.22.63 is perfect! Don’t change a thing! (Blu-ray Review)

11.22.63 is perfect!  Don't change a thing! (Blu-ray Review)While visiting his favorite diner Jake Epping (James Franco), a recently divorced English teacher, discovers a dimensional rift that allows him to travel back to 1960.  James’ longtime friend and owner of the diner, Al Templeton (Chris Cooper), convinces him to use this portal to prevent the assassination of JFK.  The problem being is that the portal will only take you to the year 1960, and JFK is killed on 11.22.63.  So Jake will spend 4 years of his life in the past collecting evidence to prove Lee Harvey Oswald’s’ guilt, while in our time only a few minutes will have passed.

11.22.63 is perfect!  Don't change a thing! (Blu-ray Review)
Let me just start by saying, WOW!  This is definitely a series that is not to be missed.  Stephen King doesn’t always nail it, but when it does, it practically changes the way stories are told.  Now you might be thinking that this is just another conspiracy theory about Kennedy’s assassination, but if that’s the case, then you’ve got it all wrong.  11.22.63 is one hundred percent a Sci-Fi/Action/Thriller that offers a few ideas as to what might have happened on that fateful day in American history.  But to balance out such intense drama we also get a glimpse of what it might have been like to live in America during the 60’s.  There have been films in the past that have attempted to recreate that time.  But this series really takes care to authenticate each and every character so that they don’t come off as caricatures.

You’re going to feel some genuine empathy for each person in this series.  But that’s not to say the whole thing is one big sob story.  In a way, stopping the murder of JFK is almost incidental as this is very much driven by the relationships that Epping (Franco) builds on his quest for the truth.  Every single actor gives a wonderfully quiet performance that allows you to become engrossed in the world they’ve created.  No one’s trying to chew any scenery here.  Regardless as to whether you were around during the 60’s, there will be a moment where you’ll feel like you recognize these people from your own life.  The performances really are that authentic!

In the past I’ve really struggled with James Franco’s performances.  There hasn’t been a time where I can remember getting lost in the roles he’s played.  He’s never truly become a different person, just a slightly different version of himself.  Perhaps it has to do with his involvement in the production of this series, but Franco has truly reached a new level in his craft.  He actually comes off as a grown man who’s had life give him a bit of a kicking, rather than a stoned teenager.  There is a scene where Epping has to apologize for lying about who he really is.  He doesn’t try to put on his signature “Cheshire Cat” grin, as if to charm his way through his lines.  Instead we see a side of Franco that is grounded, genuine, and vulnerable in a way that we’ve never really seen before this.  It’s clear that he was committed to delivering his “A-Game” in order to bring Stephen King’s story to life.

I also have to give credit to Daniel Webber who, as Lee Harvey Oswald, gave one of the creepiest performances I’ve ever seen in a TV show!  The guy is just unsettling to watch!  But again, everything about it is very small and subtle.  It’s built up over the course of the series, but it’s not until that fateful day that you’re able to decide if he’s actually a crazy person, or just someone who’s lost their way.  You see him try to interact with others on a “normal” level but eventually his paranoia and suppressed rage start to boil over.  He is a soldier, so he’s constantly holding himself in a way that says, “I am to be respected.  Everyone should respect me.”  So if someone happens to inadvertently DISRESPECT him, in ANY way, he looses all sense of composure.  It’s a truly riveting performance to behold and I don’t even feel like I’ve done it enough justice describing it here. You just have to experience it for yourself!

You can tell they spent some serious coin on the production design.  There is some straight up Mad Men level detail in the clothing, cars, furniture and even the architecture of the sets!  If the goal was to create a textured and life-like setting that you could almost reach out and touch, then mission accomplished.  If not for the fact that it would be grossly disrespectful, I could totally envision a section of Disney World called “11.22.63 Land”.  But among all of the colorful pinks, blues, and yellows of the 1960’s, we’re also reminded of how hard it was to live as a black person during that time.  I appreciated the subtle way that they handled the racial climate of that era.  When a film tries to depict racism in a fictional format it tends to be a little over the top and in your face.  Instead, we get small moments that don’t necessarily impact the story, but serve to give us a deeper understanding of who these characters are.

Alex Heffes‘ musical score definitely stands out as one of my favorites for a series.  It just so perfectly captures both the Sci-Fi and Thriller aspects of every single scene.  So often nowadays people tend to opt for more “Synth” driven cues when composing for a Thriller such as this.  But when you’re handling a period piece that also involves time travel to the future, you have to incorporate some modern arrangements while at the same time giving the audience a sense of the past.  Heffes’ score walks this tightrope with masterful elegance.  At no point did the music ever feel like a rip-off of a classic cue, nor did any of the modern elements feel ham-fisted into the mix.  I watched the intro for every single episode because the opening theme sets you up for what will be a fantastic and gripping adventure.

11.22.63 is perfect!  Don't change a thing! (Blu-ray Review)

Disc 1:
1. The Rabbit Hole
2. The Kill Floor
3. Other Voices, Other Rooms
4. The Eyes of Texas
Disc 2:
5. The Truth
6. Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald
7. Soldier Boy
8. The Day in Question
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (15.92 Mbps)
Resolution: 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1
Clarity/Detail: Everything is crisp and sharp.  You can almost make out the little fibers of the cotton jackets.
Depth: The shots that take place on the day of the assassination are quite breathtaking.  The cinematography totally captures the sense of awe and anticipation as everyone awaits the Presidents arrival.
Black Levels:  Fairly decent but could be a little deeper.  You can tell that the main focus was placed on the daytime scenes.
Color Reproduction: Excellent!  This is another place where 11.22.63 truly shines.  The colors are rich, vibrant, and at some moments borderline tangible.
Flesh Tones: Clear and accurate.  There are quite a few close ups that are paramount to the scene.  So if we had any sort of haziness, then those great moments could’ve easily been lost.
Noise/Artifacts: None.
11.22.63 is perfect!  Don't change a thing! (Blu-ray Review)
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Portuguese: Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Dynamics:  The music in particular is perfectly mixed within the dialogue.  Not a single word is missed due to any sort of overpowering instrumentation.  There are also a few shocking moments that don’t necessarily qualify as “jump scares”, but are balanced in a way that jolt you out of your seat.
Low Frequency Extension:  Great.  Again, this is another area where the music really sets this 11.22.63 apart with it’s rich and diverse melodies.  There aren’t too many explosive sound FX.  But what there are give a decent amount of punch.
Surround Sound: N/A.
Dialogue Reproduction:  Fantastic!  This is based off a Stephen King novel so it’s imperative that we be able to hear everyone’s lines perfectly.
11.22.63 is perfect!  Don't change a thing! (Blu-ray Review)
When the future fights back – cast and crew discuss the tremendous responsibility in portraying what was such a pivotal moment in American history. Interspersed among the historical talk are scenes from the show itself. Which at times can be a little jarring when you’re trying to follow along, but these choppy edits only last a few moments in the beginning.  As it progresses things start to smooth out and this featurette becomes quite engrossing to watch.
11.22.63 is perfect!  Don't change a thing! (Blu-ray Review)
I really can’t say enough about how much I loved watching this show!  There were so many moral quandaries where you’re forced to ask yourself, “Would I have done the same thing?”.  It’s not like Epping is some expert investigator or military tactition. He’s just an English teacher who’s trying to do what he thinks is right.  So it’s much easier to relate to him when he succeeds and even more so when he makes a mistake.  In every great Sci-Fi story the thing that keeps the viewer engaged is a cast of characters that have enough realism that we can imagine ourselves in these fantastic and bizarre situations.  So get your fedoras and your skinny neckties ready because 11.22.63 gives you all of this and so much more!

11.22.63 is now available on Blu-ray and DVD!

11.22.63 is perfect!  Don't change a thing! (Blu-ray Review)

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