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Legends of the Fall(1994)
Tiring of the brutality of cavalry life, Colonel William Ludlow starts a new life with his family in the majestic mountains of Montana. While growing up, his three sons are inseparable, but as young men, passion, the butchery of WWI and personal tragedy intervene in their lives and shake the foundations of their family.
For more about Legends of the Fall and the Legends of the Fall Blu-ray release, see Legends of the Fall Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 18, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn, Henry Thomas, Julia Ormond, Tantoo Cardinal
Director: Edward Zwick
» See full cast & crew
Legends of the Fall Blu-ray Review
A cherished 1990s title finally debuts on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 18, 2011
Lose the madness.
A world at war, a family torn apart. Conflict thousands of miles away, shattered lives at home and dashed dreams within the heart. Life is built on the unknown; it blindly guides men and shapes their fates, its singular moves capable of bringing with them everlasting happiness or, more often, it seems, permanent despair. A touch, a look, an idea, an event far from home or close to the soul can forever alter a life and those around it for better or for worse. The only thing sure in life is death, yet it's that one sure thing that brings with it the most pain. Man, then, favors the unseen, the uncertain, the chance that good can come of this life even when its ending is so evidently clear. Why, then, does man allow darkness and tragedy to befall him in this fleeting timespan before the cessation of life, prior to that singular moment in time that is the realization of life's one known quantity? Is the bad -- the certainty of death and the misfortunes that play out far too often in life -- worth whatever rewards there may be in the here and now and, maybe, in the afterlife? Why does man allow tragedy, petty differences, greed, hate, fear, and other negative emotions to so commandingly control life when there's but one chance at getting it right, when right and wrong really does so often seem black-and-white? Why is it that wrong so often spirals out of control while good seems so fleeting? Why is pain an almost uncontrollable force that forever alters men's lives? Why is it that physical scars heal but emotional scars never do? In Legends of the Fall, tragedy strikes at the heart of a close-knit family that lives in harmony with nature, others, and within itself, but good intentions tragically morph to undesired results and lives lost both in the physical realm and in the deeper emotional sense that's a fate worse than the end of life, an ever-present anguish that, even if time can lessen, the realities of life and the constant flux of its very nature only make worse. The world is a sinful, tragic place, but all it takes is a tear of joy, an embrace, forgiveness of past wrongs and letting go of irrevocable differences to make it right in the end, to allow man to approach and embrace that one sure thing in life on his own terms and without a heavy heart.
The Ludlow family -- father Colonel William (Anthony Hopkins, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) and sons Alfred (Aidan Quinn, The Mission), Tristan (Brad Pitt, Seven Years in Tibet), and Samuel (Henry Thomas, Dear John) -- has long lived in the Montana countryside. The Colonel's wife has left him, but he's found peace in the presence of his three boys, all of whom have taken different roads towards adulthood but who share a common bond of love and kinship with one another and their equally loving and spirited father. When Samuel returns from college with his bride-to-be Susannah (Julia Ormond, First Knight) in tow, the family outwardly celebrates while Alfred and Tristan both grow fond of her, and not in a familial, brotherly sort of way. Samuel's plans for marriage are cut short with the German advances across Europe in World War I; though their father will not tolerate talk of war in his house, Samuel and Alfred vow to flee to Canada to enlist in the army and fight the Hun. Tristan accompanies them only to serve as a caretaker for his younger brother. The dangers of war, acts of foolish heroism, and unforeseen tragedy strike far away from the serenity and space of Montana, forever altering the Ludlow family's bonds of kinship and tearing apart their future, their entrance in war and the arrival of Susannah into the family bringing with them a decades-long string of events that will threaten to dear down all they've known and destroy everyone they've ever loved.
It might be easy to dismiss Legends of the Fall as an overly sappy and melodramatic picture. That's a fair assessment, and far be it for anyone to claim that to be a false assumption. Nevertheless, film is an art form that will speak to different viewers in different ways. Perhaps this film speaks more clearly to viewers whose lives have been touched by loss and tragedy more so than those who have yet see the darker side of life and question its very purpose. In that sense, it's easy to see Legends of the Fall as a glimpse into the realities of life, even if great tragedies and years of multi-character development and interaction are whittled down to two hours of screen time which does, in a way, seem to give more credence to the "melodrama" argument based solely on the limited amount of time for the events depicted in the movie to unfold. Taken from the other direction, though, Legends of the Fall may be viewed as a brilliant picture that demonstrates an almost unparalleled mastery of mimicking life. For the Ludlow family, tragedy seemed a regular occurrence once outside influences -- war, love, politics -- challenged the family's serenity. Life is not lived in a bubble, though, not for the Ludlow's and certainly not for anyone else, and with that in mind Legends of the Fall may be seen as a film playing as both plausible story and as a demonstration of what a hard, vile creature life can be and so unfortunately often is, even considering the best of intentions for it. The film's drama is its best asset; thematically, it's a difficult film to watch, one that certainly speaks not only of the challenges man faces but the spirit with which he can rise from the ashes and live anew, even in the face of untold hardship, personal loss, sacrifice, and injustice. It's a film about life and about how hard life can be. It's also a story of personal courage and redemption, even if those facets are short-lived or almost impossible to find in the wake of personal and familial devastation. Edward Zwick's film is a masterpiece of life itself, a difficult and complex story but one that's at the same time both tragic and rewarding for its ability to capture all those things that play a part in shaping lives, molding destinies, destroying dreams, and rebuilding relationships.
Where there's bound to be more of a concusses regarding Legends of the Fall is in its technical merits. An Academy Award winner for Best Cinematography, Legends of the Fall is a king amongst even the greatest visual spectacles of its generation, sharing such prestige with other sweeping, grandiose pictures like Dances With Wolves, another American Frontier period piece of unparalleled beauty and craftsmanship. The big, wide-open Montana landscape is the perfect backdrop for a story as personal as this one; it reinforces the primary story arc of close-knit characters that are often challenged by the larger world around them, even beyond the scope of the vastness of that state's sprawling countryside. Legends of the Fall is nothing short of film as poetry, a picture that's equally visually and audibly melodic, the latter courtesy of the legendary Composer James Horner, whose score is as flowing, inviting, smooth, and enchanting as are the film's visuals, but like the picturesque backdrop, it in many ways also serves as a reinforcement of the darker themes of loss and personal tragedy that construct the bulk of the story. Zwick and Horner -- who also worked together on Glory, one of the absolute finest films ever made -- are one of Hollywood's great tandems, even if they don't have the name recognition or quantity of collaborations of, say, a Steven Spielberg and John Williams. Finally, Legends of the Fall is populated by a wonderful ensemble cast that does the material proud. What is one of Bard Pitt's finest performances is at the center of the film; his character travels the most difficult road from both physical and emotional perspectives, and he's every bit believable as a handsome farmhand whose life has been beset by incredible personal loss that seems never-ending as the film progresses, even if he's always been a caretaker of sorts to the ones he loves while at the same time the most rugged and individualistic of the family. Aidan Quinn and Henry Thomas deliver strong, often moving performances as the eldest and youngest Ludlow brothers, respectively, while Anthony Hopkins turns in a stalwart and, by film's end, multifaceted performance as the family patriarch. Julia Ormond's character is the film's most frustrating character even if she's central to the way the story plays out. Ormond does well with the character, but hers is the most one-dimensional performance of the bunch, though her limitations seem like those of the script rather than her talent and dedication to the role. That doesn't lessen the picture but almost seems to give it an added realism that serves to support the primary story arc and the tales that flow from it to round it into a cohesive whole.
Legends of the Fall Blu-ray, Video Quality
Legends of the Fall makes its long-awaited Blu-ray debut with a handsome film-like transfer from Sony. This 1080p, 1.85:1-framed image features good detailing that may not be up to the standards of brand-new films, but that nevertheless impresses in almost every frame. Facial details are good, and the fine texturing of fence posts, wooden logs, period clothes, and the more "modern" structures and objects as seen in those scenes taking place in downtown Helena are all likewise of a high standard of quality. Likewise, the transfer captures the burned-out, blown-up, war-torn European landscape nicely. Colors are accurate and handsome, whether the brighter hues as seen around the city or the more rugged earthy tones of the Montana countryside. Flesh tones appear accurate, but blacks may be just a touch too dark, leading to unwanted but only slight crushing effects. The transfer retains a fair bit of grain, appears a touch soft in a few places, and never seems troubled by banding, blocking, smeared colors, or the like. This is a great-looking catalogue transfer from Sony.
Legends of the Fall Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Legends of the Fall features a quality DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The track is effortless in flow and delivery; James Horner's score is handled with the attention to detail it deserves as it's smoothly pushed through the front speakers. The track offers up clean, accurate bass, whether in the form of a bear's deep angry growl or various thumps and explosions as heard in wartime Europe. The film's World War I segments are, no surprise, the most sonically active; gunfire erupts from every speaker and projectiles hurtle through the soundstage with ease, effectively recreating the sounds of trench warfare within the confines of the listening area. The surround channels also carry a good deal of natural atmospherics along the Montana countryside -- including rolling thunder -- as well as the hustle-and-bustle of the then-cutting-edge streets of Helena. Dialogue is precisely delivered through the center, rounding a pleasant and accurate soundtrack into presentation-quality form.
Legends of the Fall Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Legends of the Fall isn't packed to the gills with extra content, but the collection does include a pair of audio commentary tracks.
Legends of the Fall Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Legends of the Fall might best be known for its superb casting, breathtaking photography, and impeccable score, but at its heart is an important story on life and all of the hardships that come with it. Beyond the pain, tragedy, and uncertainty of everything but death lies the ever-present hope for redemption, for a greater understanding of how things work and why, the importance of coming to terms with the realities of life and, just maybe, the possibility of learning a little more about what makes life worth living even in the face of the most difficult of circumstances and the most heartbreaking and life-altering of tragedies. The film may rightfully be seen as too much, too sappy, too forced, but it would seem there's an equal case for hailing it as just the opposite, a film that hits hard and hits home as a slice of real life, an examination of life's difficulties and the way men cope with adversity on the largest of scales and the biggest of stages: within their own hearts. Sony's long-awaited Blu-ray release of Legends of the Fall doesn't disappoint. Handsome video, quality audio, and a few good extra features make an already must-own film a must-buy Blu-ray disc. Very highly recommended.
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Legends of the Fall Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Legends of the Fall Blu-ray Announced, A River Runs through It in... - November 29, 2010
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced Legends of the Fall for Blu-ray release on February 8, 2011. This romantic saga starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins and Julia Ormond had been pre-announced in 2006-2007, but was later postponed. On the same date, SPHE ...
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