• Antebellum (Lionsgate) 4k UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Lionsgate
    Released on: November 3rd, 2020.
    Director: Gerard Bush, Christopher Renz
    Cast: Janelle Monáe, Jena Malone, Jack Huston, Kiersey Clemons, Gabourey Sidibe
    Year: 2020
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    Antebellum – Movie Review:

    The feature length debut from co-writers/co-directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, 2020’s Antebellum tells the story of a black woman named Eden (Janelle Monáe), the latest slave to be forced to work on a southern plantation. She’s confused when she witnesses a group of Confederate military men taking over the place, and less than impressed when one of them, Him (Eric Lange), decides that she’s now his property.

    Eden has a friend of sorts in fellow slave Eli (Tongayi Chirisa), recently made a widower when cruel Captain Jasper (Jack Huston) brutally murdered his wife right in front of his eyes in the film’s powerful opening scene. He speaks to her about planning an escape, but Eden is fearful that if they get caught, and there’s a good chance that they will, that it’ll only make things worse for them. She’s also concerned about Julia (Kiersey Clemons), another new recruit at the plantation who just so happens to be pregnant.

    Meanwhile, in 2020, a woman named Veronica (Monáe again) enjoys her life as a successful author. When she’s asked to speak at an upcoming conference, she accepts and is happy, upon her arrival to catch up with old friends Sarah (Lily Cowles) and Dawn (Gabourey Sidibe). When they go out for the night, Veronica starts to notice some strange changes in her life… and we’ll leave it at that.

    Antebellum has a lot going for it. It’s a visually stunning film right from the beginning, and it’s clear that Bush and Renz, with some help from cinematographer Pedro Luque (who also shot Don’t Breathe) are pulling out all the stops when it comes to nailing down a very distinct and frequently very impressive visual style. The use of color and of shadow especially really stands out, the compositions are always spot on and on this level the film is a massive success. It also uses music very effectively, the music by Roman GianArthur Irvin and Nate Wonder really doing a nice job of highlighting both the drama and the horror that plays out over the film’s hour-and-forty-five-minute running time.

    The acting is also solid. Monáe is really good in front of the camera, she suits the role and the role suits her, it’s a good fit. Supporting work from Gabourey Sidibe and Lily Cowles is quite good, and Tongayi Chirisa and Kiersey Clemons are strong in their parts as the other slaves. Jack Huston and Eric Lange play the heavies effectively and are believable in their parts. Jena Malone also has a supporting role in the film that she handles quite well.

    The problem with Antebellum, however, is that it’s a twist film. We won’t spoil it here but the film goes for an M. Night Shyamalan styled surprise and it doesn’t quite work as well as maybe it should have. The end result feels gimmicky, attempting (and to be fair, sometimes succeeding) to make the audience think about what’s happening to the characters and why but the way that it blends America’s past with its present doesn’t resonate the way that the filmmakers probably hoped that it would.

    Antebellum – Blu-ray Review:

    Antebellum arrives on UHD from Lionsgate on a 66GB disc in a 4k transfer framed at 2.39.1 widescreen in an HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p with HDR and Dolby Vision enhancement and the image is practically flawless. Detail is frequently outstanding and color reproduction is, at times, just gorgeous. Black levels are spot on and while there are some scenes where shadow detail is just a drop lower than you might want it to be, it’s hard to find much else to complain about. Shot digitally, there’s obviously no print damage or grain issues to discuss, the image is pristine, and thankfully there are no compression artifacts to complain about. Overall, the picture quality here is impressive.

    The main audio option on the disc is a really strong Dolby Atmos mix, in the film’s native English language. There’s plenty of surround activity here, sometimes quite discrete and other times pretty bombastic, but it always suits the scene at hand. The levels are nicely balanced and there’s excellent clarity throughout, with dialogue always crystal clear and the score coming through with excellent depth. Subtitles are provided in English SDH, French and Spanish language options.

    There are quite a few interesting extra features on the disc, starting with a sixty-seven-minute featurette called The History In Front Of Us: Deconstructing Antebellum which is a very thorough two-part look at the film from beginning to end, covering the conceptual aspects of the production through to the finished product. There’s plenty of cast and crew insight here and some interesting footage as well. It’s a nicely put together piece that goes into a whole lot of detail.

    A Hint of Horror: The Clues Of Antebellum is a six-minute piece with Bush and Renz who expose some of the interesting little hidden secrets that are peppered throughout the movie that you may or may not catch on your first viewing. Opening Antebellum spends five-minutes that shows how the film's impressive opening sequence was shot.

    Also included on the disc are a few theatrical trailers, eight-minutes of deleted scenes, menus and chapter selection options.

    As this is a combo pack release, Lionsgate also provides a standard 1080p version of the movie on Blu-ray in addition to an insert card containing a code that can be redeemed for a digital HD download version of the movie. Both discs are housed inside a black keepcase that in turn fits inside a slipcover with some nice foil enhancement on the front and back sides.

    Antebellum – The Final Word:

    Antebellum is technically impressive and beautifully shot, but it relies just a little too much on twists to try and cover a couple of questionable choices as to how it delivers its narrative. Still, it gets a lot more right than it does wrong and it provides to be a stylish and entertaining picture. Lionsgate has done an excellent job on the UHD release. The movie looks and sounds fantastic and it has a nice selection of extra features as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized Antebellum Blu-ray screen caps!